Today hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites will vote against the highly insane state constitutional amendment that would not only prohibit the future possibility of same-sex marriage, but also the possibility of civil unions and would demolish existing domestic partnerships for gays and straights alike. Polls show it will be a very close vote.
Our street theater group has been working on this issue all summer, though a lot of effort was squandered when we developed a complicated show that was really too long to watch and hard for us to perform. We performed it once, then a couple people dropped out and that was it. We rolled with that and shifted down to a much simpler, more direct action at the Farmer's Market. As you see above, Liberty and Justice frame the issue as not writing discrimination into our Constitution. They prime passers-by by calling out: "Vote NO on the Marriage Ban Amendment November 7! Cast your practice ballot today!" Thus primed, folks then walk by our giant "VOTE NO!" ballot box where one or two folks dressed as The People (we wear smocks with many faces painted on them) offer giant practice ballots which say BALLOT on one side and NO on the other, so we can all rehearse the future and vote down the discrimination amendment!
We've done this for 2-3 hours at the Market for 4 of the last 5 weekends (the fifth got rained out), and the response to this little action has been tremendous. It's been surprisingly easy to get people to take the ballots, hold them high so others can see, and insert them into the box. I'd estimate that we've roped somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 passersby into casting these giant prop ballots over our 4 action days, and the greatest part is that they were witnessed by many, many thousands more.
Since the ballot-casting is interactive, and some people demur by saying they're not eligible to vote here, we've learned some keen things about the composition of the market audience (and thereby, the effects of performing at this venue). Although our group sometimes dismisses the market crowd as merely preaching to the lefty Madison choir, this past Saturday alone I had enough interaction with out-of-staters to convince folks from the following states to cast our ballots in the name of theater and opposition to discrimination:
District of Columbia (x2)
New York (x4)
Not to mention these international travellers:
And these are just the people I was able to engage long enough to convince to participate this past Saturday. Having this specific data has helped us understand in a concrete way that when we push memes at the Madison Farmers Market, they can really travel. Consequently the work we perform there goes beyond propagation of thoughtful/emotional issue framing -- we also effectively reinforce Madison's reputation as a hotbed of political activism -- and as an artistically political city as well. That's cool too.