On the Theatre IV side, Peter Pan and the Fairy Tale Ball preparations are in full swing. You can see more about both on the TIV blog. Amidst the chaos at the Empire Theatre today, our new touring show, The Air We Share, commissioned by GRTC and written by Scott Wichmann, finished its last rehearsal before heading off to schools tomorrow morning. And of course the move-out of our storage/shop space at Tom Perry's.
That's the Cliff Notes version of the last few weeks. Now our marketing/PR/box office focus shifts more towards The Little Dog Laughed. And now, we realize this show may be more controversial than we previously expected. I personally have been very excited about this show and consider it a great addition to the season, but it does contain some language and content that may not be for everyone. Since everyone may not have a chance to read Bruce Miller's director's notes that we will publish in the program, we thought it would be nice to post them here and perhaps answer some questions.
"Why The Little Dog Laughed"
by Bruce Miller
In November of 2006, Virginia passed the Marshall-Newman Amendment, also referred to as the Virginia Marriage Amendment, by a 57% majority. In so doing, voters amended the Virginia Constitution to define marriage as “solely between one man and one woman,” and to ban recognition of any status "approximat[ing] the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage.”
This was the first time in Virginia history that our constitution was amended to deny the rights of certain individuals. Virginia is now the only state in the nation to ban marriage-like contracts between unmarried partners. In The Washington Post, Jonathan Rauch wrote, “Virginia appears to abridge gay individuals’ right to enter into private contracts with each other. On its face, the law could interfere with wills, medical directives, powers of attorney, child custody and property arrangements, even perhaps joint bank accounts.”
In March of 1924, Virginia’s legislature passed the Racial Integrity Act. It required that a racial description of every person be recorded at birth, and made marriage between “white persons” and “non-white persons” a felony. Just like the Marshall-Newman Amendment, the Racial Integrity Act gave Virginia the dubious honor of having the nation’s strictest laws on who could and could not fall in love, be married, or recognized as legal partners within the state’s borders.
In 1958, Mildred Jeter (a woman of white, African-American and Native American heritage) and Richard Loving (a white man) fell in love in the racially mixed, low income farmland of Caroline County, Virginia. Because of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, they travelled to Washington, D. C. to get married. Shortly after their return to Virginia, police burst into their bedroom at 3 a.m., arrested man and wife, and carried them away to jail. The Lovings pleaded guilty to being married; they were sentenced to one year in prison. I welcome you to visit the Barksdale blog to read more about this couple. Type Loving Virginia theatre into Google, and it will take you right there.
In 1967, Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act was declared unconstitutional by the U. S. Supreme Court, ending misogenation laws nationwide. Today, virtually all those who objected vigorously to interracial marriage in the first half of the 20th Century (major political parties, churches, general public) have changed their minds.
It may take another generation, it may take longer, but I hope, pray and believe that during my children’s lifetimes, our state’s and our nation’s prejudice toward gay couples will go the way of yesteryear’s opposition to interracial marriage. I think the more we see gay characters loving each other on our TV screens, in our cineplexes, and on our stages, the quicker that day will come.
I’m reminded of President Kennedy when he made his historic, world-uniting speech in 1963. “Ich bin ein Berliner.” I am a Berliner. Set aside for a moment the urban myth that purports that “Berliner” in German vernacular means “jelly doughnut” rather than “citizen of Berlin.” John Kennedy’s clear intention was to take his stand beside, with and among West Germans shortly after the Communist state of East Germany erected the Berlin Wall as a barrier to restrict the freedom of its citizens.
I love The Little Dog Laughed because, as freedoms are being restricted here at home, it proudly seeks to establish solidarity with gay men and women who are feeling increasingly isolated and ostracized by the so-called Defense of Marriage agenda. The play suggests that love between two consenting adults is more vital, powerful and sacred than any credo or code. It shows that building barriers to limit love is hypocritical for societies, industries and individuals who pretend to salute freedom and embrace equality. It does so with a sense of humor. If we can laugh at this hypocracy, then perhaps we can also get beyond it.