Published: Jan 29, 2012 02:00 AM
Modified: Jan 27, 2012 08:07 PM
Your average public issue forum might include a speaker or two, a Powerpoint presentation, maybe a panel discussion.
Musical theater, not so much.
So the Orange County Human Relations Commission's Human Relations Month Forum today at the Carrboro Century Center will be a little unusual.
The forum, "Defining Marriage in North Carolina by Constitutional Amendment: What Are the Implications?" will include, along with a panel discussion, a live production of "Amendment One: The Musical."
UNC sophomore Rachel Kaplan wrote, produces and directs the six-minute musical, which debuted as a video on YouTube.
Amendment One, which will be a statewide ballot referendum on May 8, is a measure that would amend the state constitution to define marriage solely as between one man and one woman. North Carolina law already forbids same-sex marriage, but the amendment would codify that policy constitutionally.
"I heard about Amendment One, and I was opposed to it, so I decided to get involved," Kaplan said. "I'd seen a version of 'Prop 8: The Musical' in California. I thought, 'Let's do one of those here in North Carolina.' "
She wrote the piece and recruited a friend, Mike Griggs, a student at Trinity College, to write the music. Then she sent notices out to friends and dramatic arts email lists seeking cast members.
The whole process was a first for Kaplan.
"I was in a play in elementary school," she said. "That's pretty much the extent of my stage experience."
Her musical presents two groups of characters who engage in a back-and-forth musical debate over the measure. When the pro-amendment forces argue that the Founding Fathers would be on their side, George Washington appears on stage to set them straight, reminding them that "all people are equal, without exception / To think that marriage is not a right is self-deception."
Ben Elling, also a student at Carolina, plays Washington, in powdered wig and a cardboard version of the Delaware-crossing boat.
"I'm against the amendment, but I hadn't considered political action or taking steps to mobilize people until Rachel came to me and asked if I'd like to participate," said Elling, who did a lot of theater in high school and has a minor in dramatic arts at UNC. "My immediate answer was yes."
His Washington is not quite the stiff historical figure we tend to think of.
"Rachel told me I could take some liberties with this one of the Founding Fathers," he said. "He's not quite the chopping-down-the-cherry-tree version."
Kaplan is from Charlotte, and she drew the rest of the cast from that area and filmed the video there.
The performance today will feature an all-new cast, aside from Elling, and will be the first live presentation of "Amendment One: The Musical."
"That makes it interesting," Elling said. "On film you can do additional takes and fix things. Live, you do it the way you do it. It helps that everybody involved is really committed and taking it seriously."
The forum is open to the public. It will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. today at the Century Center, 100 N. Greensboro St., preceded by a performance by The Moaners at 2:30.
The panel discussion will feature Stuart Campbell, executive director of Equality North Carolina; Maxine Eichner, Reef C. Ivey III Professor of Law at the UNC School of Law; and Brett Webb-Mitchell, an ordained minister and visiting associate professor at N.C. Central.
"We'll be closing out the forum," Kaplan said. "This is the first live show, but I definitely hope to do more. I'd love to perform it flash mob-style somewhere."