Joni Lefkowitz talks marriage equality and “Life Partners”

I love great theater, which is a shame because I live in Los Angeles. Once in a while, though, there is an exception to the dreadful scene. Black Sheep Entertainment and Firefly Theater and Films, recently teamed up to produce Unscreened, four short plays at The Zephyr Theatre in Hollywood. The Zephyr is an inconspicuous space with unfortunate bathrooms, that consistently puts up great work. All of the writers involved in this production were women, all with plenty of pre-existing fabulousness under their belts.

The fourth play, Life Partners, centers on the relationship between two best friends, one straight, one gay. In the opening scene the two are at a pride parade, where Paige (not a lesbian) drunkenly declares that she will not get married until Sasha can too. This is all hypothetical of course, as neither woman is in a relationship.

Years pass and Paige falls in love with a man. When he pops the question she says “yes,” and then remembers her pledge. When she told her fiance they will have to wait for Prop 8 to be overturned before they can wed, the whole audience laughed, possibly not for the same reasons. So they wait. And wait. Sound familiar? Finally the man can wait no more and Paige is forced to tell Sasha it’s go time. Instead of apologizing, she rationalizes the decision, saying her marriage has no effect on Sasha’s rights, or lack thereof.

Amanda Walsh and Shannon Woodward

photo credit Veronica McCarthy

Shannon Woodward (Raising Hope, The Riches) played Sasha and Amanda Walsh (These Girls) was Paige. Both women gave multi-layered, funny, and touching performances. They both rocked skinny jeans and black Chuck Taylors, perhaps the wardrobe that unites us all. Paige was originally played by Rachael Taylor, but she had to leave the show to work on the new Charlie’s Angels television show. Excuses, excuses.

Life Partners was written and directed by Susanna Fogel and Joni Lefkowitz, who also brought us the WB webseries Joni and Susanna. Together with producer Jordana Mollick they are developing a feature film version of Life Partners. I caught up with Joni after one of the shows and discussed the inspiration behind the play and the plan to make it into a movie.

Joni Lefkowitz

AfterEllen.com: What inspired you to write Life Partners?
Joni Lefkowitz
: We had developed a more “Hollywood” version of this story as a pitch a couple years ago and didn’t find a home for it. When we got the opportunity to write a one act about whatever we wanted, we picked up this story and developed it in the small way we wanted to in the first place.

AE: What are you hoping the audience will take away from it?
JL:
We were pretty surprised from some of the early reactions to the play during its workshop stage. Most thought our gay character was being completely unreasonable for expecting her best friend to follow through on the promise to wait to get married until gay marriage is legal. I found myself getting defensive on her behalf. Is it really that extreme of a promise? Would people be reacting the same way if the play was about another minority group not being allowed to get married? We hope the play made people take a harder look at the discrimination around them that they accept as normal.

Shannon Woodward, Amanda Walsh and Will Greenberg
photo credit Veronica McCarthy

AE: What made you decide to make Life Partners into a feature length film?
JL:
The original point of the play was more about female friendships and how they become strained when one friend gets involved in a relationship. That part of the story will get explored in more depth in the feature film, which we decided to write because we felt unresolved after the quickie version and found ourselves with a lot more to explore. This is a story we haven’t seen and we feel uniquely equipped to tell. That’s a rare combination we couldn’t resist.

AE: Do you and Susanna Fogel have any other projects in the works?
JL:
We’re trying to set up our first feature we wrote together, It Is What It Is, to shoot this summer. It’s a story about kids a few years out of college realizing their lives aren’t exactly what they wanted them to be, kind of a modern Reality Bites.

Please chime in below with thoughts on straight friends getting married when they know you can’t!

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