Another View From the March
By Noah Michelson
The cast of Hair had their bus leave the night before, right after their 16th performance in 14 consecutive days. All 34 of Hair's cast members (both gay and straight) signed up for the ride, a four hour drive from Broadway to the stage of national politics.
"We cracked open a couple of bottles of champagne, got out the sandwiches and booze and made a party of it," said Caissie Levy, who plays Sheila, Creel's love interest in the show. "It was joyful."
The next morning they joined tens of thousands of other gay men and women for the largest gay rally in Washington in a decade. They marched from the White House to the Capitol, demanding equality, shouting, "We're out, we're proud, we won't back down!" and "Yes, we can!"
"It's absolutely inspiring," said Allison Case, also a cast member. Case, who is straight, says being at the rally has not only made her a better human being, but also a better actress. "When we started the show we did a lot of research on Vietnam. We watched the documentary and looked at photographs, but to be a part of this movement gives you an idea of what it was all about. It looked exactly like this," she said pointing to the sea of people.
The National Equality March came a day after President Barack Obama spoke at a dinner by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay group. Obama assured the crowd he would follow up on his promise to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and "the so-called Defense of Marriage Act." But many in the gay community are beginning to show signs of frustration over the "when" part. Some feel the administration is using two wars and a bad economy as an excuse for stonewalling.
"We remember eight years of peace and prosperity under another Democrat, a man named Bill Clinton, who went to our parties, who took our checks, who wrote flowery proclamations, who gave some of us some great jobs, and what did we get out of that? We got "don't ask, don't tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act," Cleve Jones, the organizer of the march, told the crowd on the Capitol lawn.
There are no official crowd estimates, but Jones believes the number to be around 200,000 people. He said he never doubted that if he tweeted, they would come. It's perhaps one of the reasons so many young people showed up at the rally. That and the fact that Twitter is free. The total operating budget for the rally was 200,000 dollars, a laughable sum for a national event. "This was a grassroots effort lead by youth," Jones said. "It's their time."
For Creel there was an added personal side. His mother Nancy and father Jim, who still struggle with their son's sexuality, came all the way from North Carolina to march with him.
"I never made that phone call before," said Creel, almost apologetically. "But I told them, I really want them to be here." As he says those last words his voice cracks, then he catches himself. "But I think they're OK. I left them for an hour and when I came back they were smiling."
His father Jim, a retired businessman, says the march was a life-changing experience. "My wife and I realized that when the topic (of gay marriage) comes up, you can't just sit there, you have to do something." Then he says one more thing that gets his son choked up. "I'm so proud. I can't tell you how many people have come up to us and thanked us and gave us credit for what he's done."
-- ITAY HOD
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