All the sketches were written when gay marriage was still extra-legal in California. So the sketches are set mostly in other states. We get to watch them knowing something the characters don’t, that gay marriage in California is no longer hypothetical. The issues we’re looking at will have an immediate impact on our lives. Also, I’ve worked with many of these actors and admire them, so I was very glad to find out that Heidi Wolff has been cast in my piece.
What is the greatest challenge you faced with this show?
Usually a short play or a sketch is one of many pieces in an evening of unrelated pieces connected only by a topic. In “Lawfully Wedded,” most of the pieces are written by one playwright about a group of common characters. Kirk Shimano and I were invited to write additional sketches to be added to these, without knowing the characters. So I’m interested to see how my sketch and Kirk’s fit into the group of related sketches.
What kind of research did you do to prepare?
I did an hour on the internet reading about divorce laws in Massachusetts. But my sketch came out of several news clips that were flying around the first time gay marriage was legal in California and people were lining up at City Hall in San Francisco, which happened to be on my way to work.
One was a cautionary message from Lambda Legal: Don’t get married just because you can. Legal marriage will be, well, legal. It will affect your obligations, your children, and your property. And if you get divorced, it will raise all the same issues as when straight people get divorced.
The other was an article, I think in “The New Yorker,” about how vicious custody battles were becoming in lesbian divorces. Apparently, women are more prone to desiring absolute separation from a departing mate and they want to keep their children away from the other as well. So when that’s multiplied by two women, the process can be surprisingly ugly. The first sketch I submitted for this show was a drama about a potential custody battle between two women getting divorced. I was worried that people would find it too dark for an evening of short sketches. Then a friend pointed out that if the women were arguing about custody over a piece of furniture, it could be a comedy.
What have been some of your favorite previous projects?
I’ve been fortunate with 10-minute plays. I’ve had the privilege of seeing really fine actors do an anti-war piece of mine, “Gold Star Mother,” at the Cherry Lane Theater in New York and I like a nasty little play I wrote about battered wives, “A Moment of Your Undivided Attention,” that of course divided attention between two conversations. But I actually prefer long forms. Until Morgan invited me to submit, I had given up on short plays. You have to do all the work of creating characters and a setting and a situation, and then you have only a few pages to get to know them. I’m glad Morgan dragged me out of storage. Otherwise, I’m writing a full-length play about a voice-over actress who begins to hear voices. And writing, and writing, and writing.
Since this play is about the right to marry, what are some of your personal feelings regarding marriage?
To me, marriage is sacramental. Well, to me, sex is sacramental, but that’s another play. Marriage brings the community into a relationship; it’s not just about the couple anymore. The couple makes promises to the community and the community makes promises to the couple. Many people do this without a legal contract, and many legal marriages at city hall leave the community out of it. It’s just the couple and a bureaucrat.
So I wasn’t much interested in legal marriage, except as equal treatment under the law and because so many people did want it, until a legal friend informed me that marriage confers about 1,000 civil rights all at once. You’d never be able to petition for all of those rights separately.
That’s the pile of issues people ignore when they insist that marriage is between a man and a woman only. Why? Not because marriage is for having children, because it isn’t that for thousands of straight couples, and thousands of gay couples do want children. What are you conveniently ignoring when you try to stop the conversation with heterosexuality and children?
What do you hope the audiences will take away?
Admiration for Wes Cayabyab for both directing this show and stepping in as a last minute replacement for a lead actor, not to mention personally making the knives used in my sketch, “Double Edged Sword.” And I hope they pick up a postcard for “Gorgeous Hussy,” the other play in production at Wily West this month.