Standing on Ceremony

 

ONE week after Spencer McLaren finishes his run performing in Standing on Ceremony – The Gay Marriage Plays, he will marry his off-stage partner in a same-sex ceremony in Melbourne.

“We’re having a ceremony in Melbourne and then we’ll have a delayed honeymoon in July. If it’s not legal here by then we will then go overseas and do the legalities,” McLaren told the Star Observer.

“I’m rehearsing these plays where the characters are writing vows and doing this stuff and I think god, I have such personal insight right now.

“We’ve joked that maybe on the last night we’ll have the wedding live on stage. But then my partner says, ‘No, I don’t think so.’”

Starring alongside actors like Pia Miranda and Michael Veitch, McLaren will help bring the nine short plays of Standing on Ceremony to life as part of Melbourne’s Midsumma festival next month.

Debuting in New York to critical acclaim in 2011, the show is touted as a funny and heartfelt look at same-sex marriage.

McLaren said his impending real life same-sex nuptials have given the rehearsal process a surreal quality.

“I don’t think I’ve ever rehearsed anything that I’m almost going through in a parallel experience. That is quite strange,” he said.

The parallels are particularly unusual in the final play of the evening, Pablo and Andrew at the Altar of Words, in which McLaren plays one of two men reciting their vows during a wedding ceremony.

“I’m not sure whether I need to invite my partner or whether I should just steal the vows for the show and pop them in our own wedding and be a little lazy and say, aren’t they original? The danger is I might just revert into the play when I’m getting married and go, oh no, wrong lines,” McLaren joked.

Despite its pervading sense of heart, Standing on Ceremony has a reputation for being funny.

One play in particular, The Gay Agenda, is a near-monologue delivered by a suburban homemaker paranoid the neighbourhood gays are trying to influence her.

“I think everyone’s well aware that that’s the danger, that you end up in mush territory… it’s heartfelt but fun. The key to this whole project is that it’s a lot of fun,” said McLaren, arguing it also avoided the danger of being preachy.

“I don’t think you can put on a play called Standing on Ceremony – The Gay Marriage Plays without it just having an inherent political perspective, because of where we are. But as a piece, it doesn’t feel like you come out having been lectured on an agenda at all. That’s what’s so great about it.”

Although just a week between the show ending and his own marriage ceremony is perhaps too brief a respite, McLaren said planning for his own wedding was coming along well.

“My mum came up with this great term the other day. She said, ‘So I’m the mother of the broom,’” he said.

“In terms of the organising I’m more of the broomzilla than he is. We went and tried on one suit and he said, ‘Yeah, that’ll do,’ and I said, ‘No that’s not going to do.’”

McLaren also hoped the experience would be one of taking the old with the new: “You have freedom to create something entirely new and fresh, yet entwine it with some of the great traditions of the institution you’re becoming a part of.”

Standing on Ceremony – The Gay Marriage Plays is on at Chapel off Chapel at Prahran, Melbourne from January 22–February 9 as part of Midsumma. Book online at www.midsumma.org.au.

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