ANNAPOLIS — Is “8” enough to gain people’s support for gay marriage in Maryland?
Mickey Lund, founder of the Annapolis theater troupe Dignity Players, certainly hopes so.
He’s arranged for a staged reading of the play “8” on Sunday, July 22. The drama chronicles the federal trial over California’s Proposition 8, a gay-marriage ban approved by voters, overturned in court, and currently in the appeals process.
Lund, who married his partner Eric in California, sees the performance as his version of political activism. Dignity has a history of tackling tough social issues. “This is what we’re all about,” said Lund, who is directing the play. “This is why I founded Dignity Players in the first place, to do this kind of the theater.”
A question and answer session follows the reading, focusing on what people can do to make sure a same-sex marriage referendum on the November ballot passes. Representatives from the General Assembly, Equality Maryland, Marylanders for Marriage Equality, Standing on the Side of Love and Maryland Faith for Equality will be on hand.
After that, Lund plans a reception complete with a three-tiered wedding cake and wedding decorations. He intends to ask all the gay couples in attendance to gather around the cake for a blessing from clergy.
Lund said the reception might be “over the top,” but it also makes a statement.
Julia Vidmar, assistant director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, which opposes same-sex marriage, said she was confident voters wouldn’t be dissuaded by the kind of “propaganda” presented by the play.
The staged reading takes place at Dignity’s regular venue, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis. Lund hopes to have a second performance at the church, but no date has been set.
Regardless, another performance is a certainty because a second Annapolis theater troupe has also secured permission for a staged reading of “8.”
The Bay Theater Co. will perform the play Oct. 8, although a location hasn’t been chosen. Bay’s co-founder Janet Luby, said her theater, which has 88 seats, is too small for the anticipated audience. The Unitarian church can hold 250.
“This is something I care deeply about and want to do,” said Luby, who met with Lund before Dignity’s rehearsal of “8” last week. “It combines the fight (for gay marriage) and art at the same time.”
Bay’s reading will be free. Dignity’s costs $10. Lund said the fee covers the cost of the reception and any remaining proceeds will be donated to the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which sponsored the federal lawsuit to overturn Proposition 8.
Lund’s production features 21 actors, four of whom are gay. So many people wanted to take part that he had to turn several away.
“It’s a play that’s very timely,” said Dan Kavanaugh of Crofton, who portrays an attorney. “This is a good way to help get the message out about the need for marriage equality in Maryland.”
Chris Haley, director of the Study of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland, plays a doctor in “8.” Haley said putting on the show in the state’s capital at a church was very appropriate “since religious beliefs are brought into (the gay marriage debate) all the time.”
“I’m very much about equality for all people,” he said, “and ‘8’ is all about equality.”
Ali Vellon of Annapolis, who plays a court clerk and is organizing the reception, feels the play will sway people’s votes in favor of gay marriage.
“Annapolis is ready,” she said. “Maryland is ready.”