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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Taking the cake

Popping the question. Gettin’ hitched. Tying the knot. “Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays” features nine different scenes, all centered on what comes before and after walking down the aisle.

The performance is centered on same-sex marriages, but aspires to capture the overall human experience and relate to all types of people by connecting to audiences’ emotions and experiences, said senior and actor Alexander McRae.

“None of these plays make you think at the end of them, ‘Wow! That was a great, gay story,’” McRae said.

McRae plays Jerry in the “Strange Fruit,” scene, which was written by eight professional playwrights. In the performances each act tells a new story of happiness, loss and love.

Linnaea Groh (left) and Aisha Spencer (right) rehearse their parts for Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays on Monday, Oct. 19. // Photo by Caleb Galbreath
Linnaea Groh (left) and Aisha Spencer (right) rehearse their parts for Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays on Monday, Oct. 19. // Photo by Caleb Galbreath

During the performance, Jerry envisions the two men on top of the cake, smiling with giddy excitement at his husband as they stand on a platform of bright, yellow boxes, and retell the story of their marriage.

The play begins Thursday, Oct. 22, and runs until Saturday, Oct. 31, at 7:30 p.m. at the Douglas Underground Theater in the Performing Arts Center, with two matinee performances on Saturday, Oct. 24, and Saturday, Oct. 31, at 2 p.m.

These plays offer the chance for people who do not know much about same-sex marriage to explore the issue by changing their perspective on what gay marriage is, McRae said.

“People get too caught up in what two women do in the bedroom together,” McRae said.

The play celebrates how much progress has been made in regard to same-sex marriage, senior Fatima Wardak said.

“It’s important to remember [same-sex marriage’s] climb to get to where it is now,” Wardak said.

In addition to playing the character Cate in “A Traditional Marriage,” Wardak also plays Beverly in “On Facebook,” a conservative woman from Iowa as described through her dialogue.

“On Facebook” tells the story of a real Facebook thread about overturning same-sex marriage laws. Beverly states she wished gay marriage would be overturned in her state. Her argument that centers on the use of the word “marriage.”

Three same-sex marriage supporters join the conversation and start an intense debate against Beverly, who has to recruit one of her Facebook friends to come to her aid.

Conversations like these are common to find on Facebook, senior Stephan Cherewyk said. She has some similar conversations show up on her own feed, Cherewky said.

One of the biggest challenges was to play characters honestly and not fall into stereotypes, Wardak said.

Beverly’s personal views and Wardak’s views conflicted, but she had to remember that Beverly represented a real opinion on same-sex marriage, Wardak said.

“With any character it is a bridge between you and the character,” said Wardak.

In the performance Beverly comments on a Facebook thread, stating she wished Iowa would overturn same-sex marriage; this begins an intense and emotional debate from each side of the issue.

“She wants to embrace the conservative ideology, but doesn’t want to accept the emotional harm it does to others,” Wardak said.

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges same-sex marriage was legal in all 50 states. Despite this victory, there is still a lot of progress that needs to happen, said senior Kieren Blom, costume designer for the play.

The Supreme Court ruling did not solve all the problems faced by the LGBTQ community and people are still fighting for equality, McRae said.

In addition to leading roles, the play tried to subtly incorporate gay culture into the play by showcasing colors from the gay pride flag in every scene, Blom said.

The play helps illustrate how same-sex relationships are no different than heterosexual ones, McRae said. He hopes that the piece can be empowering for the LGBTQ community on campus.

Cherewyk plays Oliver in “On Facebook,” a lawyer-type personality who is very smart and has a lot to say, Cherewyk said. He also plays Michael in “My Husband,” a single teacher who would do anything, including running a false wedding announcement in the New York Times, for his mom.

“You get to view all kinds of life,” Cherewyk said. “Yeah, some of these people are gay, but it’s not about that. It’s about these people and their lives.”

Junior Teague Parker plays multiple roles in different plays, and creates in-depth backstories for his characters including where they live, work and their life goals in order to portray them honestly, Parker said.

It is important to share these stories to show same-sex marriage is no different than traditional marriage, Parker said.

“They are the gay marriage plays, but they are also just the marriage plays,” Parker said.

The play shows that, despite differences in opinion or sexual orientation, everyone is human, McRae said.

“Relationships are not different between a man and a woman, two women, two men or two whatevers,” McRae said.

By sharing stories with each other, the community can better understand the culture they live in, Parker said.

“People are people,” Cherewyk said.

The ultimate hope of the play is that everyone will be able to identify with the characters and one day there will no longer be a need for plays like this, Blom said.

“It shows how far we have come so we can see how far we have to go,” she said.

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