Local’s gay marriage play to run in Aurora
If You Go...
What: ‘Unmarried in America’
When: Weekends May 8 through June 21
Where: Vintage Theatre, Aurora
How much: $24 and $28 in advance, www.vintagetheatre.org
With the Supreme Court hearing cases that would decide whether states can ban same-sex marriage, the timing couldn’t be better for CMC adjunct instructor Kristin (K.D.) Carlson’s “Unmarried in America” to get a full run at Vintage Theatre in Aurora.
“Unmarried in America” illustrates the marriage equality debate through the eyes of a court reporter during California’s Proposition 8 trial, which had just wrapped up when Carlson began writing her play. She said she chose a court reporter as the main character because it would be the most relatable to audiences.
“I wanted someone who was very every-person, who was not one of these high-powered people who brought the case, not somebody on the inside like an attorney or judge,” she said. “I wanted someone whose job was literally just to listen and type.”
Carlson hopes that by watching the action unfold through the eyes of an impartial observer, the audience digests the stories of the other characters in a clearer way.
“From the beginning, I wasn’t as intrigued by the legality of it — although that’s important, of course — but what really drew me in were the stories of people,” Carlson said. “I had been a pretty oblivious person, to be frank. But these people got me interested.”
Carlson decided to write “Unmarried in America” after a community member approached CMC’s theater department and suggested someone write a play about the trial.
“I started looking into the trial documents and quickly became that someone,” Carlson said. “Once I got started, I couldn’t stop.”
In preparation for writing the play, Carlson read more than 3,000 pages of documents related to the trial and felt particularly drawn to one man’s testimony: Ryan Kendall, who went through conversion therapy. Carlson ended up meeting Kendall in Denver and interviewing him for two hours, asking deeply personal questions, she said. His answers played a large part in “Unmarried in America,” and he will be at the May 29 and 30 performances in Aurora for talkbacks.
Not only did Carlson’s interview with Kendall help her writing, but he also put her in touch with others who had been involved with the Proposition 8 trial.
“Those interviews helped me to be informed and immersed me in something I didn’t know much about when I first started,” she said.
Prop 8 banned same-sex marriage in California, but it was overturned, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal.
Getting to Aurora
“Unmarried in America” had its first staged reading at Colorado Mountain College’s New Space Theatre in the fall of 2011. In January 2012, Aspen Gay Ski Week hosted a staged reading at the Wheeler Opera House.
Six months later, Aspen Stage performed the piece at the statewide Colorado Community Theatre Coalition festival, where it won the People’s Choice Award and caught the eye of Craig Bond, artistic director of Vintage Theatre in Aurora.
In March 2013, the play was staged at Thunder River Theatre Company and was also selected to advance from the regional level to the national American Association of Community Theatre competition that June at the Tarkington Center in Carmel, Indiana. There, it won four awards, more than any other play in the competition.
“After seeing a one-hour version of this script at the Colorado Community Theatre Coalition, I felt compelled to produce the play in its entirety,” Bond said. “As a gay man that has been waiting to get married legally within Colorado for over a decade, while having children with my partner, this script speaks to my heart and my own personal experiences.”
Directing the Vintage Theatre production is another CMC adjunct instructor, Wendy S. Moore, who has been with “Unmarried in America” from the beginning, when Carlson hosted a table reading in her dining room with her actor friends from the community.
“She’s been in since that reading around my dining room table,” Carlson said. “It truly has been a labor of great commitment. It takes a village to raise a play.”
Carlson said her goal was never to force a belief onto her audience, but rather to share stories that illustrate the issue of marriage equality in America and allow her viewers to form their own opinions.
“Always my hope is that we engage in civil, respectful, heartfelt discussion — that we see each other,” she said. “My mother used to tell me, ‘Whatever things look like, however great the strife, love wins.’ And I guess I want to believe that.”
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