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‘Standing on Ceremony’ addresses gay marriage arguments

November 11, 2011

This past Monday, dozens witnessed as eight people rewrote wedding vows, paid tribute to Facebook fights and mourned the passing of loved ones in a series of plays titled “Standing on Ceremony.”

Monmouth College faculty members Janeve West, Trudi Peterson, Hannah Schell and Kate Zittlow-Rogness, theater majors Nick Munson and Mike Bennett and Monmouth community members Martin Holland and Clay Kilpatrick joined 50 other organizations to act out a series of plays addressing gay marriage through alternate scenarios.

“The plays were funny, moving and entertaining, all in one,” said freshman theater major Anthony Occhipinti. “They were very relevant because gays are fighting for gay rights. It’s not going away any time soon.”

The 50 productions of the plays acted as a preview for shows opening in New York this coming week. Audience members watched a live streaming introduction on YouTube prior to the 90-minute performance.

After the performance, writers of the plays answered questions submitted by viewers via Twitter in a live-broadcast from the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York City.

Monmouth College’s theater department was the only participating organization in Illinois.

“It’s hard to gauge how it’d be taken because Monmouth is a smaller town,” said Bennett, “but it seems like people really enjoyed it. I think it went really well.”

The production came about after a conversation in September between West and Monmouth College alumni Dr. Melissa C. Thompson when Thompson returned to the college as a guest speaker. Thompson had connections with the Tectonic Theater Project, which co-sponsored the productions with the Minnetta Lane Theatre.

“I hope this performance provides an opportunity for others to see who they could be,” West said. “I grew up not really knowing who I could be because I had no one to watch. I’m proud that I can tell stories of my life, history and culture as a lesbian here [at MC], and that I can be a voice and an example to a student who may not know who they are yet.”

To find performers, West sent out e-mails to students who she believed would be interested and called neighbors and other faculty members, knowing she wanted a diverse group of people.

“I wanted a mix of actors and non-actors, students and non-students,” West said. “It was really important to me that this was a campus community project. We had straights reading gay and lesbian parts and vice versa.”

Once performers were found, scripts were distributed and actors picked what parts they wanted or were appointed in a “fast” manner, according to Bennett.

“We only had about two rehearsals,” said Bennett, who performed in four of the skits. “It was all about who felt most comfortable in what part. I just had West cast me in whatever part was needed. I was here for the cause and happy to be asked [to do it].”

West hired senior Abby Davis, a theater major, as an assistant stage manager to run the projector, sound and stage direction. Students in West’s theater classes who attended the event received extra credit.

On top of providing students with the chance to act and to see the skits, the production also allowed a team of communication students to make a documentary of the event. Students filmed rehearsals and the performance and interviewed West and the rest of the cast.

“It’s really good press for the communications and theater departments,” West said, “and it’s good press for Monmouth to show what we can do here. I feel like it’s important that students hear this conversation and continue the conversation because it’s one of many important topics in culture right now.”

Cassie Burton
Staff Writer

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