[Marxism] Proposition 8--the musical
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Dec 6 06:51:26 MST 2008
NY Times, December 6, 2008
For This Songwriter, the Political Is Musical
By DAVE ITZKOFF
Most of the jokes in the Internet video "Prop 8 the Musical," a
comedic song-and-dance diatribe about the California ballot
initiative defining marriage as existing only between a man and a
woman, are in its lyrics.
Playing a black-suited religious conservative, John C. Reilly
intones, "People, listen to our plea/They'll teach our kids about
sodomy." Neil Patrick Harris, playing a flamboyant figure trying to
reconcile the proposition's supporters and opponents, sings, "Every
time a gay or lesbian finds love at the parade/There's money to be made."
But there is one visual gag that is particularly bittersweet to Marc
Shaiman, the creator and composer of the video: a credit that says
Mr. Shaiman conceived and wrote this three-minute musical skit "six
weeks later than he shoulda."
As popular as "Prop 8 the Musical" has been it has been viewed
more than 1.9 million times since it was posted on Wednesday on
funnyordie.com it is also a reminder to Mr. Shaiman and like-minded
colleagues of how events might have turned out if they had been vocal
and organized before Proposition 8 was approved by California voters
"We stupidly allowed ourselves to be lulled into a sense of
'everything's fantastic now,' " Mr. Shaiman said in a recent
telephone interview. " 'Everything's changing, and this couldn't
possibly be voted into law.' "
The proposition passed on Election Day with 52 percent of the vote,
including strong support from religious conservatives. On Nov. 20 the
California Supreme Court said it would consider whether a
voter-approved ban on same-sex unions was constitutional.
Mr. Shaiman, 49, an openly gay, Tony Award-winning songwriter whose
résumé includes the stage and film musicals "Hairspray" and some of
the bawdier songs in "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut," came to
create "Prop 8 the Musical" somewhat inadvertently.
After the passage of the ballot initiative, he learned that Scott
Eckern, the musical director of the California Musical Theater in
Sacramento, had donated money to support Proposition 8. Mr. Shaiman
found this troubling, since the theater had recently staged a
production of "Hairspray": by his reckoning, this meant that funds
generated by his work were used to bolster a cause he opposed. (Mr.
Eckern, who is a Mormon and has said that his donation stemmed from
his religious beliefs, did not respond to requests to comment for
Mr. Shaiman said, "I sent an e-mail to a lot of people, anyone who's
in my phone book, and said, 'Can you believe this guy?' " Among the
people he contacted was Adam McKay, a founder (with Will Ferrell) of
Funny or Die, who encouraged Mr. Shaiman to channel his feelings into
a video for the site. This was, Mr. Shaiman said, "the
slapping-my-head moment: 'Oh yeah, why didn't I think of that?' "
On Nov. 18, Mr. Shaiman recalled, he sat down at his piano in his
home in Los Angeles and wrote "Prop 8." On Nov. 19 and 20 he cast the
video, recruiting Jack Black to play a particularly flippant Jesus
Christ and Adam Shankman (the director and choreographer of the
"Hairspray" movie musical) to direct it. The video was shot in one
day at a magic store in Santa Monica, and mixed and edited after the
Thanksgiving holiday at a pace that Mr. Shaiman found astounding.
"It's like 'Saturday Night Live,' only without the money," he said.
"But also without the restrictions."
The purpose of the video, its participants say, is to find common
ground between Proposition 8's supporters and its adversaries. "If
you really wanted to break it down lyrically, it's literally a list
of talking points," Mr. Shankman said in a telephone interview. "It's
about questioning, and it's doing it with a very sweet and innocent spirit."
But "Prop 8 the Musical" has also been criticized in comments on
Funny or Die for glibness, and for trying to address a moral question
with an economic answer: at the end of the video the initiative's
sponsors give up their religious objections when they learn they can
make money from gay weddings.
For Mr. Shaiman there is also an air of ruefulness hanging over the
project. He says he felt burdened by the news that Mr. Eckern had
resigned his position at the California Musical Theater on Nov. 12.
"I did not ask for his resignation, nor would it be my place to ask
for someone's resignation," Mr. Shaiman said. "But I was a part of
that, and that is a very heavy weight, and I don't take it lightly."
If he cannot undo the events of Election Day, Mr. Shaiman said that
he took some comfort in the e-mail messages he has received in
support of "Prop 8 the Musical," and that the creation of the short
(which he described as "a viral picket sign") had drawn him into a
larger network of activism.
"The most important thing," he said, "is that it continues the
dialogue, and does not allow another week to go by for the subject to
be swept under the rug."
The other benefit of the project is that it has introduced Mr.
Shaiman to the medium of Internet video, a field to which he has
never (willingly) contributed before.
Working in movies and theater, he said, "can be distressing, even
when things are going great."
"It's just like, 'Oh, I wish we could put this in front of an
audience and know what it is.' "
The immediacy of viral videos, he said, "strips years off your life."
Mr. Shaiman continued, "It's made me feel skinny, metaphorically."
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