When California voters banned gay marriage in 2008, Brian Shnipper didn’t take to the streets in protest; he called his playwright friends. It was the beginning of what would become “Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays,” a collection of nine one-act plays by writers such as Neil LaBute, Paul Rudnick and Wendy MacLeod. Two-and-a-half years and a couple of benefit performances later, the show, directed by Shnipper, is running at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and with a rotating cast of celebrity performers.
When you first asked these playwrights to do this, did you give them any guidelines?
The only thing I told them was that I didn’t need 10 love letters to gay marriage.
Some of the plays were written by straight, married-with-children playwrights. Were you surprised by their insights?
In terms of somebody like Neil LaBute, whose characters tend to be misogynistic and definitely come from a heterosexual world, you don’t think he’s going to write with such tenderness and such beauty about these two men who love each other as much as they do.
Do you have a favorite?
I love all my babies. What’s really great about the evening is that there’s no clunker.
Do you think the people who are seeing this show aren’t necessarily the people who need to be seeing this show?
This is the first time it’s been done in a theater that you could consider preaching to the choir. But now that we’re open and we’re getting amazing [reviews], we can reach out to a wider audience … [We’re hoping to go] to regional theaters, to Kansas, Mississippi, to universities, to places where people need to hear this.
Is this social activism on a stage?
Yes it is. But I try to make it as personal as possible, because I don’t think you reach people through politics; you reach people through the personal. I really set out to create an evening that — sorry to be cliché — made people laugh, made people cry, made people think, because that’s how you change people’s ideas.
Theater review: 'Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays" at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center
— Jason Kehe
Above: Shnipper is the director of "Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays." Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times