In 1985, when our play Cinderella: The Real True Story was first performed at the Wow Café in New York, marriage equality was a dream -- and a punch line. I laughed along with everyone else when I first heard the line, written by my friend and collaborator Holly Gewandter, "We'll live as wife and wife."
"Ridiculous!" we all thought back then.
The play, perhaps the very first onstage depiction of same-sex marriage, presented the dream of marriage equality through the classic tale of Cinderella. In our pioneering, gender-bending version, Cinderella goes to the ball disguised as a boy. The princess is an archetypal spoiled brat, the only child of a doting father, the absolute monarch King Phillip the Bold (brilliantly played in the Wow production by the fabulous Lisa Kron in her first role on a New York stage, and in the first London production by the fabulous Gillian Hanna), and she is feeling hopeless about ever finding her "prince." She and our cross-dressing Cinderella meet at the ball, and the magic of love at first sight is so powerful that the princess doesn't care when it's later revealed that he's a she. "I want this woman," she wails to her father, petulantly stamping her feet.
Head over heels in love, the princess proposes to Cinderella, who accepts. Expecting her always-indulgent dad to share her joy, the princess is furious when the distraught king expresses outrage and calls the relationship between the princess and Cinderella unnatural. When the princess insists that what she feels could not be more natural, the king counters with, "But it's the law," to which the princess replies, "Then change the law, Daddy ... change it for my happiness."
The clever duke (himself in the closet) is the king's chief advisor, and he helps the king craft a plan to send Cinderella out on a quest to win the hand of the princess as suitors did in days of yore, when "men were men." They're sure that Cinderella, a mere girl, will run away -- or perish.
But of course Cinderella, having a hero's heart and soul (and a secret weapon in her fairy godmother), triumphs, and the king finally sanctions the union and, as Gewandter's wonderful lyric in the finale puts it:
You all thought Cinderella would end up with a fella;
The sound of wedding bells would ring the curtain down.
Tradition not withstanding, horizons need expanding,
And so I am commanding all subjects of the crown to
Make a wish and close their eyes and sing it to the rafters
That lovers all deserve to have their happily ever afters....
Audiences throughout the world have laughed and cheered and cried through the play. The "other side" felt that the notion was so dangerous that Conservative members of Parliament threatened to close down the first London production, calling it "twisted and perverse"; we were, after all, profaning a beloved fairytale, and in a government-subsidized theater to boot! The tabloids had a field day with the controversy, which resulted, of course, in sold-out performances for the entire run.
Maybe we won't all live happily ever after, but now all of us will live with a dignity and respect -- and equal protection under the law -- that back in 1985 we could only sit in a dark theater and fantasize about . And in this happy summer for the LGBT community, we have had our happily-ever-afters sanctioned by the highest court of the land. So make a wish and close your eyes -- and let's make sure this happy dream spreads from sea to shining sea. It's the stuff of fairy tales.
Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that it was the princess who was "brilliantly played in the Wow production by the fabulous Lisa Kron in her first role on a New York stage, and in the first London production by the fabulous Gillian Hanna," when it fact it was the king whom these actresses portrayed. This was an editing mistake, not a mistake by Cheryl Moch. We regret the error.