Wednesday, December 3, 2008


On November 27, 1978, I was a student at the National Theatre Institute in Waterford, Connecticut. It was my semester away from my alma mater where I lived, ate, and breathed theatre 24/7.

That same day, three thousand miles away, in San Francisco, Harvey Milk was assassinated along with then-Mayor George Moscone. I remember hearing about it, but its significance was lost on me in the whirlwind of booking the tour for our NTI roadshow.

Thirty years later, almost to the day, we went to see the new biopic, Milk.

Oh what a difference three decades make. Or, do they?

The film, let it be said, is brilliant. No defensiveness. No edge. No sentimentalism. The story is riveting. Sean Penn’s performance took my breath away. One of the major actions in the movie is the grassroots work on a California referendum known as Proposition Six. It proposed that gay people should not be allowed to be public school teachers.

The elation and the despair of the characters in the film seemed to me quite clearly echoed in the recent California Proposition 8 mess. This proposition was a definition of marriage that precluded LGBTQ folk from claiming that right for ourselves.

The subjects of the two propositions were different but the energy, the care, the hatred, the antipathy were identical. Don’t you think we ought to have learned something in those intervening 30 years besides Excel?

Milk interweaves footage of the time with its current portrayals. The two weld seamlessly. Anita Bryant was just as hateful as politicians I heard talk about Prop 8.

With all the challenges that face our world today—interwoven global fortunes, climate change, nuclear threat, to name just three—I say it’s time we stopped trying to legislate matters of the heart and started working together toward solutions for all of us.

Oh, and go see Milk. It’s extraordinary theatre.

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