A few weeks ago, I wrote a post criticizing the Courage Campaign for asking for $100,000 for their new campaign, Testimony: Equality on Trial. They gave no details of what the campaign would entail and simply expected supporters of marriage equality to fork over the cash.
This week, we see what this campaign is all about. There are now several videos of well-known celebrity actors dryly reading from the Perry v. Schwarzenegger transcripts in public places. It’s awkward and boring as hell. Here’s a video of Michael Urie and Cheyenne Jackson. See if you can endure the full 14 minutes:
The ultimate goal of the campaign is to encourage people to submit their own readings and reenactments of select scenes from the trial.
Now, I have been incredibly impassioned about bringing the Prop 8 Trial to the public forefront. Without a doubt, the testimony that was shared is valuable and deserves to be part of widespread knowledge, particularly the testimony of the plaintiffs and the research dispensed by the expert witnesses.
But I don’t think this campaign is effective at delivering on that widespread attention. At least not yet. I love that so many celebrities are showing their support, but these videos could not be more boring. The celebrities certainly aren’t displaying their acting chops. And if the idea is to create a guerrilla theatre impact, there needs to be both real theatre (something deserving attention), and an audience (people around to be distracted by it).
The bigger question is: if this is all there is, why did Courage Campaign need $100,000? Did they have to pay the celebrities to get their support? That’s insincere. Did they pay web designers incredible sums to design a simple webpage for simply viewing videos? I sure hope not. Did they pay off the WSJ to get coverage for their campaign? Well, I doubt it; that would be illegal.
So what gives? Are we really supposed to be super excited that this is what they came up with? Deadpan readings in empty parks by celebrities?
I am not impressed.
Now, apparently, this is just Phase 1. And apparently the lifeless script-reading without production was an intentional decision. In Marisa Tomei’s letter of support, she wrote:
But Phase 1 of “Testimony” — reenactments of key scenes from Perry v. Schwarzenegger — is not about professional actors and producers making a film. It’s about people like you grabbing a video camera, a couple of friends and bringing this trial to life in your own town square, living room or park.
So while Partricia Clarkson, Alan Cumming, Ellen Greene, Cheyenne Jackson, Josh Lucas and Michael Urie all made videos, there was no script memorizing, no crew, not even a director.
I can only hope that if people out there attempt these guerrilla readings, they try to bring them a bit more to life than the professional actors have. Even with the intrigue of a public performance, I can’t imagine cold readings really holding people’s attention. Maybe I’m wrong.
And maybe the other phases will be more compelling.
After the huge ask of cash and the piddly results so far, I’m not holding my breath.
(And for those of you who are eager to support every pro-gay campaign that comes down the track, that’s fine. I’ve decided to take an approach of scrutiny and accountability.)