Same-sex couples marry on Broadway stage
Never content to miss an opening, members of the Gotham theater community signed up to get hitched on the stage of Broadway’s St. James Theater Monday night, a day after gay marriage became legal in New York state.Three couples — thesp Terri White (“Finian’s Rainbow,” the upcoming “Follies”) and jewelry-designer Donna Barnett, actor Ryan Dietz and TCG staffer-playwright Josh Levine, and stage doorman John Raymond Barker and usher Jared Pike — were on tap to exchange vows in ceremonies presided over by actor Colman Domingo (“The Scottsboro Boys,” “Passing Strange”), who got ordained in preparation for the event. Ceremonies were skedded to take place following the Monday-evening perf of “Hair,” with auds invited to stay for the nuptials. Creatives, producers and other industry types involved in the 2009 revival of the 1960s flower-power musical have long been associated with marriage-equality activism. Broadway Impact, the theater community’s grassroots org that advocates for gay marriage, was co-founded by thesp Gavin Creel, one of the production’s original stars. In October 2009, the tuner, which won the 2009 Tony for tuner revival, went dark for one Sunday matinee to allow the cast to travel to D.C. for the National Equality March. “This show in particular and the Broadway community in general have been so vocal and so committed to fighting for marriage equality,” said Jordan Roth, prexy of Jujamcyn Theaters, which owns the St. James. The current Off Broadway incarnation of former Main Stem offering “Avenue Q” also got in on the act, announcing that same-sex puppets Rod and Ricky intended to marry Sunday, just prior to the day’s matinee perf of the musical. Although the revival of “Hair” initially shuttered on Broadway in June 2010, producers launched a national touring version that has now returned to the Main Stem for a 10-week summer run. The legalization of gay marriage in New York state went into effect at midnight Sunday, prompting a cascade of weddings (beginning right at midnight) and a slew of local press coverage. Logistics for Monday night’s onstage festivities, including safety accommodations for onstage aud members, were smoothed over in part by the fact that the production has long incorporated an onstage dance party for performers and auds following every perf. Ceremonies were slotted in between the curtain call and the usual post-show shindig. The push for marriage equality in the Empire State has in many ways been boosted by the effort to repeal Prop. 8 in California. In 2009, a group of entertainment industry activists, including Rob Reiner, Bruce Cohen and Dustin Lance Black, helped form the American Foundation for Equal Rights, led by Chad Griffin, which has been funding the effort to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage in the federal courts, scoring a big victory last year when a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional. The next milestone in the case will come sometime this fall, when the California Supreme Court is to hear arguments on whether same-sex marriage opponents have standing to appeal the case before the Ninth Circuit. A three-judge panel of federal appellate justices were reluctant to rule on that procedural issue before first seeking opinion of the state high court. Throughout, the foundation has tapped a bevy of Hollywood donors to support its multimillion-dollar legal effort. And last year, with the help of former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, they also won Wall Street and Republican support, including such figures as hedge fund manager Paul Singer. That led to Mehlman’s involvement this year in recruiting donors for the lobbying campaign to pass New York’s marriage law, with Singer and other Wall Street types contributing to the effort. While Broadway basks in celebration of nuptials in New York, activists will be turning their attention to California soon. On Sept. 19, the foundation is teaming with Broadway Impact for a fund-raiser at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, where actors will stage a reading of Black’s “8,” a play chronicling the federal trial over Prop 8. Joe Mantello will direct, and plans are to license the production to schools and community organizations for stagings across the country.