Protestors, preachers and people of all types in between swarm over Boston City Hall Plaza, engulfing the square in posters, cameras and megaphones. In one corner, a man denounces the sins of the homosexual in the name of God while activists determinedly chant, “Two, four, six, eight, LOVE DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE!” It’s the general mayhem typical of a demonstration.
“All in the Family: Massachusetts Speaks OUT,” a documentary theatre piece written and directed by Scott Chaloff ’08, seeks to show the stories behind that mayhem. In a unique event that fuses the theater community and social action groups at Yale, “All in the Family,” which features actors and crew members drawn from the LGBT Student Cooperative, details the human side of the 2004 Goodridge vs. Massachusetts Department of Public Health trial that legalized gay marriage in Massachusetts. This two-act piece will be shown Monday night, the day before the elections, in the hope of raising awareness and rallying support on the issue of gay marriage.
Based on traditional political theater of the 1990s, “All in the Family” will be a staged reading with minimal setting and effects in order to bring focus to the text and character development within the play. Inspired by “The Exonerated” and the works of Anna Deavere Smith (“Fires in the Mirror”), Chaloff centers the piece around four gay couples — each of whom shares their experiences, both related and unrelated to the publicized trial.
The play opens with a series of anecdotes of how the partners met, played hard-to-get and eventually made their commitments. But the light and humorous tone of the first half of Act I gives way as conflicts naturally arise from the prejudice and discrimination the couples face: In Hillary Goodrich’s (Iris Insogna ’08) climactic monologue, she recounts how she was unable to reach her partner, Julie (Susie Kemple ’08), and their newborn daughter because of the hospital’s policy of only allowing immediate family members to visit.
By the end of Act I, the trial is complete, and Act II picks up after each of the couples is formally married. The couples’ stories build on each other seamlessly, and Chaloff integrates the arguments of conservative, pro-family activists throughout both acts to provide balance and contrast to the piece.
All of the material in “All in the Family” comes directly from a series of interviews Chaloff conducted during his senior year at Milton Academy as part of an independent project. Chaloff interviewed a wide variety of participants in the proceedings, including lead plaintiffs in the Supreme Judicial Court trial, senators, members of the “religious right,” reporters and Massachusetts residents from all walks of life.
Due to dogged persistence and days of playing phone tag, Chaloff was able to gather hundreds of hours of testimony in which people revealed intimate stories that were otherwise lost to the press. He strung snippets of the interviews together to create a two-hour and 40-minute play, which he edited down to the current 90-minute piece this past summer.
Members of the Co-op will speak about the status of the marriage equality movement, and Chaloff will take questions and receive feedback on the show. He hopes to get across the message that theater can be political and make change, and that “what people feel after should make [them] want to react.”
Anna Wipfler ’09, coordinator of the LGBT Co-op, was enlisted by Chaloff at the beginning of the semester to help with the play, and she hopes to make “All In the Family” an event that is as political as it is theatrical.
“We want this performance to be more than just a theater piece,” Wipfler said. “We are holding it the night before Election Day in the hopes that people who come will realize what choices they can make at the polls to help continue the progress toward full equality for LGBT citizens.”
All in the Family
Monday 8 p.m.