Mark & April Fossen are part of the Plan-B family. Mark has appeared in THE ALIENATION EFFEKT, EXPOSED, AMERIGO and THE SCARLET LETTER; April has appeared in MIAMSA, SHE WAS MY BROTHER, MESA VERDE and LADY MACBETH. And some SLAMs and Script-In-Hand Series readings. The Fossen Family also appeared in DIFFERENT-AMAZING. They will appear together in the Script-In-Hand Series reading of “8” August 4-5. They are also subscribers and donors.
“Now when our first form had been cut in two, each half in longing for its fellow would come to it again; and then would they fling their arms about each other and in mutual embraces yearn to be grafted together. Thus is mutual love ingrained in mankind, reassembling our early estate and endeavoring to combine two in one and heal the human sore. Each of us when separated is but the indenture of a person, and he is always looking for his other half.” – Plato’s Symposium
Sound familiar? If you know HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, you know the story. We’ve blogged before about what a profound experience it was for us the first time we saw Aaron Swenson perform “Origin of Love” [in Plan-B's second production in 2005]. For us it went beyond the brilliance of his performance; it was deeply emotional and personal. The story that inspired that beautiful song was part of our wedding ceremony.
So, weddings. We did a lot of research about wedding traditions as we were planning our own. Since neither of us is religious, we were starting from scratch. We needed a ceremony that didn’t include the notion of god we were raised with, but that would have meaning for us and the incredibly diverse group of friends and family who would be in attendance. And we didn’t want anything to be part of the day unless it was something we truly felt connected to. So, we studied. We looked into wedding traditions from a variety of cultures and religions; broom-jumping and glass-breaking and knot-tying, none of which really spoke to us. We came across Plato’s Symposium and the fable of the Origin of Love and it seemed perfect. A beautiful encapsulation of the way we felt about each other and the way we knew other couples – married, unmarried, committed, gay, and straight felt as well.
Like most couples who have planned a wedding, we too had moments where we wanted to scrap the planning and go to City Hall. So, we researched the reasons behind community involvement in weddings. Why did an agreement that seems so private, between two people, become a public event? It seems obvious: when people witness a couple proclaiming their love and devotion to one another and making promises, it is easier for those witnesses to support that couple in their marriage. They become invested in its success. So, no eloping. The people we had invited would be an integral part of our ceremony. We would be asking our friends and family for their blessing, encouragement, and lifelong support for our decision to become husband, wife, and family. Our friends presented questions to us as part of our vows: Do you come freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage? Do you have the means to support yourselves and to provide for your worldly needs? Do you love one another? Do you like one another? Do you have the will to argue, if you must, to air your problems, then stand together against adversity? Do you share your thoughts and ideas, burdens and dreams? We answered yes to all. And then we said these words to each other: “I shall seek to love you, even more than to be loved; I shall seek to understand you, even more than to be understood; In all of the joys and challenges that lie before us, I shall be your faithful and devoted spouse. With these friends and family as our witnesses, this promise is sure, as long as we both shall live.” These are the pieces we believed were at the core of a good marriage. The things that make a couple truly partners.
So, marriage. No two marriages are alike. We make essentially the same promises in our wedding ceremonies, but our private agreements are what make us different. How much time do we need apart as individuals? How do we handle disagreements? How frequently do we need intimacy in order to still feel connected? Who handles the bill-paying? How will we raise our children, if we choose to have them? Will we air our grievances to friends and family or keep them between each other? Countless small and large questions to be answered and negotiations to be made. Almost 14 years in, we’ve learned more about marriage than we ever realized we didn’t know. Marriage has made us stronger as individuals. We have security in our relationship at home, so we feel free to explore who we are in the world without fear, with a safety net to catch us if we fail. Marriage has made us stronger as a couple. We made promises. In public. With people we love as witnesses. Those people will never let us forget that. And we will never let each other forget. The opportunity to raise children together has made us stronger human beings. We have become more empathetic, more well-rounded, more patient, and a better team.
These years together have also made us very opinionated on the topic of marriage. Mainly in the fact that we even more firmly believe it is a right that should be afforded to any adult couple. Any couple who love each other and want to commit their lives to each other should have the opportunity to express that commitment in a public ceremony, to ask for the support of their friends and family during their lives together, to have the opportunity to raise children together, if they choose. Marriage has done only good for us, and we believe that the more people who marry, the stronger the Institution of Marriage becomes. What if we were all in it together? What if we could lift each other up and encourage each other in our marriages, regardless of sexual orientation? Wouldn’t that make all of us more devoted to the idea of marriage? If we were surrounded by people, gay and straight, who are all trying to keep their promises and live good lives together?
So, preparing for “8“. A piece that uses a theatrical construct to tell a story that speaks to us personally and politically? We’ve been preparing for it all our lives.
And one last quote from the Symposium: “If our loves were perfectly accomplished, and each one returning to his primeval nature had his original true love, then our race would be happy.”
Plan-B Theatre Company’s Script-In-Hand Series reading of “8″ takes the stage August 4-5. A fundraiser for both Plan-B and the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the event boasts a cast of 20 and a post-show discussion with the playwright, Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black, and Congressman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts). Tickets and more info available here.