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Standing On Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays

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Disagree with gay marriage? Then don't marry a gay person. Put a hold on your opinions, though, and see this show.

In the wake of legislative votes and judicial ping pong regarding the rights of same-sex couples in America, Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays gives insight into the very private lives of people making legal, spiritual, and voluntary commitments to each other.

Standing on Ceremony ascribes a purpose and passion to the struggle and beauty of partnership in a period of civil unrest defined by a singular word: marriage A combination of nine short plays gives just a glimpse into the joys, struggles, and humor that are inherent in the topic.

In "The Revision" by Jordan Harrison, this can be seen most clearly. Harrison takes a traditional religious set of marriage vows and applies step-by-step revisions to make them more palatable to gay couples. It is playful, perfect, and pure truth. He, along with the other playwrights, transform their individual plays into a socio-political ethnography of the lives of a heavily battered but amazingly strong people in these turbulent times. After all, gay people should be able to make the choice to suffer just as much as their straight counterparts!

Conceived and well directed by Brian Shnipper, a celebrated list of playwrights comment on and add to the dialogue about same-sex marriage. Playwrights include Jenny Lyn Bader, Harrison, Jeffrey Hatcher, Moises Kaufman, Joe Keenen, Neil Labute, Wendy MacLeod, Jose Rivera, Paul Rudnick, and Doug Wright. They provide contemplation, sharp wry wit, and charming banter to the dialogue as the stories unfold. Some of the one-acts are less flamboyant than the others, but each has a very singular purpose that elaborates on individual points of view relating to gay concerns.

Each night a rotating cast gives life to this politically charged institution. The May 23rd cast included Julie Haggerty (Airplane!), Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle), Paul McCrane (Harry's Law), Bill Brochtrup (NYPD Blue), John Glover (Smallville), and Rachel Harris (The Hangover).

For those who wonder if gay marriage is different, you won't wait long to find the truth. There is a difference. Ceremonies defined by politics and religion could be pre-Prop 8, post-Prop-8, Iowa legalizing, even New York legitimizing. What holds couples together in the midst of hate crimes and YouTube Courage Campaigns is made clearer by watching the performers articulate the issues. Standing on Ceremony is not about justifying gay marriage or finding the "sameness" with straight counterparts, but it discovers simply what it means to be in love and contemplating marriage.

In a particularly amusing exchange, MacLeod portrays a lesbian couple--the only one in the show-- on its way to Iowa to get married. Their byplay spotlights the fears and uncertainties that can be recognized by anyone who has ever gotten cold feet before the ceremony.

Two other powerful pieces are Kaufman's "London Mosquitoes" and Wright's "On Facebook." Kaufman's piece is read beautifully by John Glover and connects the audience to the deep human experience that is loving and knowing someone completely. "On Facebook" is based on an actual conversation online, post-marriage equality vote, dealing with right-wing religious politics and the exhaustive energy of trying to relate pain to someone unable to connect. With pieces like these, the show commits to being a show strongly rooted in the wants and desires of the human experience--to love, honor, and cherish.

Do I believe everyone should see this show? Might I say, I do.

Remaining performances take place on June 6, June 20, & June 27.

The celebrity cast on June 6 will include: Jillian Armenante (Judging Amy), Wendie Malick (Hot In Cleveland), Jack Plotnick (Reno 911), Kurtwood Smith (That '70s Show), James Patrick Stewart (It's Complicated), and Nicole Sullivan(MADtv). Future casts can be found on their website.

Monday nights at 8:00 p.m. at the L.A. Gay and Lebian Center’s Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center (The Renberg Theatre).



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.