Thursday, April 24, 2014

A staged reading to remember

Tuesday night's performances of the staged readings of the winning plays in the Unchained Love Playwright Competition exceeded my wildest expectations! As the producer of the competition and founding president of Open Love NY, it was my privilege to have a front-row seat for the plays and say a few words by way of introduction, so I will repeat those remarks here.

For those who don't know me, I didn't come to New York to be an activist for GLBT people or for polyamory and open relationships. I certainly didn't come here to get involved in independent theater production. Like many people, I came here because I fell in love with someone. Unlike many people, the target of my affections was (and still is) married to someone else. And the struggles we went through figuring that out is a big part of why I was one of the original group of eight leaders who founded Open Love NY in 2009.

One of our original goals for Open Love NY was to promote the awareness of polyamory through artistic and creative works, and this is our first major initiative in this area. I tell people all the time that I've never read a single book about polyamory. It's not the way I choose to learn about relationships, and I suspect that holds true for a lot of people. My theory is that the vast majority of us learn relationship rules and expectations from what we see on TV and in the media from a very early age. We were all influenced to some degree by Disney movies telling us one day we'll find our "one true love" and fireworks will ensue.

What I like to say about polyamory is that I define it as any worldview that doesn't hold to the "one true love" philosophy, the idea that everyone has one and only one ideal mate that we are supposed to love to the exclusion of all others. While that may be true for some people, I don't believe it is true for everyone. What we advocate is not to turn the world poly, but simply to foster relationship choice, and an end to the expectation that we must spend our lives seeking the convention of monogamy and the societal assumption that if we don’t find it we can’t really be happy.

So in a nutshell, the primary purpose of this competition is to show that, while fairy tales can come true, not everyone's happily ever after looks like what we see as the proscribed "happy ending" in the entertainment world.

From my perspective, this competition has been a resounding success, not only because we received over 75 entries from all around the world, and our winners are truly outstanding plays and everything I had hoped for when I started this competition. But more importantly, we are spreading the word outside our established community to the people in the entertainment community, those of you who will go on to create future generations of plays, TV shows and movies, and letting you know about the work we're doing at the front lines of the next big culture shift. [Of the 50 or so attendees Tuesday night, most had never been to an Open Love NY event before]

This project would not have been a success without the participation of all the talented directors and actors who performed that night. Melissa, Katherine, Jeff, Colista, Azizi, Anna and Chelsea - you are all such talented actors and amazing people - thank you for the privilege of watching you work and for sharing your gifts with us. Special thanks go to our celebrity judge, Joan Kane, the creative director of Ego Actus Theater Company, not only for judging the entries, but also for introducing us to Melissa and Anna. And my personal thanks go to director and co-judge Kacey Stamats, who has been with me on this project from the very beginning and continues to inspire me year after year.

It was at this point in the evening that we went off-script and a surprise birthday cake appeared as we sang "Happy Birthday" to Kacey, who was spending her birthday with us as the director of the short play winner.

After the play readings, Buck Lawrence, treasurer of Open Love NY, presented our award-winning playwrights - Tamara Rose and Marjorie Conn -  with their prize checks of $750 and $250 before the playwright talk-back, moderated by Open Love NY leadership team member Gette Levy.

Additional thanks go out to the Open Love NY leadership team for their sponsorship and support, and especially to Gette and Buck for their active participation, and to my dear friend Piper Hill for her assistance during the course of the evening.

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