It is Valentine's Day as I write this, so this week's column is all about the love.
I'll start by giving some love, wrapped around a mea culpa liquid center, to Orlando Shakespeare Theater. Last week I insinuated (OK, outright stated) that I wasn't invited to participate in the Feb. 12 Sonnet-a-thon, in which more than 150 local notables read the Bard's legendary love poems in downtown's Plaza Cinema courtyard. Then Shakes' Shannon Lacek politely pointed out that I had revived an invitation more than two months ago. A killer combination of a never-checked e-mail address and nuptial-induced nuttiness had consigned the message to the memory hole, so I apologize for insinuating that OST didn't think me worthy of sharing a stage with the likes of city commissioners Sheehan, Lynum and Diamond.
Luckily there was room on the roster, so I spent my lunch hour shivering under a concrete overhang, sandwiched in line between actor-volunteer Ryan Cimino and OST board member Ingrid Cordell, waiting my turn to stumble through Sonnet 95. By the way, these "romantic verses" aren't the hearts and flowers most folks think. Mine began "How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame/Which, like a canker in the fragrant rose,/Doth spot the beauty of thy budding name!" and is a syphilitic simile allegedly addressed to a male youth with whom the Bard was obsessed; others written about his "Dark Lady" feature more accusations of deceit than declarations of love. My big moment was over more or less before it began, much to the appreciation of the scattered attendees standing in the spitting rain. So a big box of candy (with no icky orange crème centers) to Lacek, Melissa Mason and everyone at OST for letting me play along.
Then I figured, while I'm in the mood for love, why not, I dunno … attend a wedding? That's only a little less forethought than the bride and groom exercised before Orlando's wedding of the decade (so far), which filled the third-floor marriage-license office in the courthouse later that afternoon. The happy couple were introduced via a chaste game of spin-the-bottle just five days before and filled out their marital application mere minutes after meeting. They're just two more irrational heterosexuals exercising their inalienable American right to spit upon the sanctity of matrimony.
This insanity naturally involves incorrigibly inventive conceptual artist Brian Feldman, whose exploits — leaping off ladders, sleeping on sidewalks — have filled these pages over the years. Unlike some of his odd-for-oddness'-sake experiments, this one has a profound political point: to protest the insanity of same-sex couples being ineligible to engage in the same institution.
In all fairness, Feldman and his bride, Hannah Miller, weren't complete strangers; she's performed with Jessica Earley, whom Feldman did not marry in a performance-art piece last Valentine's Day. But they barely know each other, unlike long-term couple Rachel Gardiner and Nicki Drumb, members of the First Unitarian Church of Orlando who helped organize Feb. 14's "The Human Heart: An OUTright Love-In" at Loch Haven Park to advocate for marriage equality. While we waited for Feldman and Miller to arrive (both ran late, perhaps portending a perfect match?) the ladies applied for a marriage license and were denied by a smiling but stern supervisor reciting statute codes. That rejected form, appropriately enough, was recycled into one of the wedding rings.
As the growing group of well-wishers, plus multiple representatives from at least three newspapers, overwhelmed the small waiting room, we started getting the hairy eyeball from a trio of courthouse deputies. (One attendee's insistence on wearing a black ski mask probably didn't aid matters.) Fortunately, the bride (in a hiked-up secondhand gown) and groom (jacket and red tie) finally arrived, and we all squished into the sparse ceremony chambers to see them halfheartedly recite their vows. Visit www.orlandoweekly.com for the video; check the long pause before Brian's "I do." After the kiss-free conclusion, Brian broke a plastic glass and reminded us that it was a sad occasion because the wrong couple was allowed to wed.
Don't be too quick to dismiss this marriage as merely a stupid stunt. Art is supposed to hold a mirror up to life, and this warped glass starkly reflected how screwed up our society still is on this subject. Judging by some of the insightful (and unfortunately obscene) comments I've seen in the blogosphere, they've stirred up some discussion, which means they've done their job. My toast to the newlyweds: best wishes, mazel tov, I am so terribly sorry for both of you.