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Cameo role for civil union pioneers

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    Cameo role for civil union pioneers - 08-Oct-2008
    The Ngaio couple, who were first in New Zealand to obtain a civil union licence, say The Outing - a musical about the local gay community - should be well received in Wellington.

    Des Smith and John Joliff say Wellington is a good place for gays and lesbians to live.

    "I don't know if it's because it's the capital and people are more political, but basically the homophobia is not very evident," says Des.

    Des, 68, and John, 79, have cameo parts in the musical, a non-profit venture raising money for arts projects that support gay and lesbian issues.

    They were asked to participate because of their significant contributions to gay and lesbian advocacy.

    "I was one of the original founders of the Gay and Lesbian Fair over 20 years ago, and ... we were first in New Zealand to have a licence for a civil union, so there are two significant factors within the musical," says Des.

    The Outing tells the story of a bus tour through Wellington to a gay dance party in Civic Square.

    "The theme is basically looking at the roles of gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender people in society," says John. "This particular group is out to have a good time and meets a bit of trouble along the way."

    The couple say they got a lot of inspiration on a recent trip to New York, where they saw several stage shows, including a musical on Broadway.

    "I thought to myself 'ours has got to be as good as that'," says Des.

    "In a good musical I think it's the whole gambit. There's the music, there's the dance and there's the costumes and the whole colour, which creates an entertainment."

    The couple say there is a lot of diversity in The Outing's cast and ages range from teenagers - with some still in school - to late 70s.

    "We're by far the oldest, that's for sure."

    They have been well-received by younger members of the cast, who they say are "amazing".

    "One guy said we were an 'inspiration,' and we thought: 'oh dear'."

    While John has a history in theatre, having been involved with Mana Little Theatre for years, this will be a first for Des - although he was an extra in Lord of the Rings and King Kong.

    Just more than three years on from their civil union, they say that although making it legal didn't change day-to-day life for them, it has given them more security.

    "I think there was that assurance that our legality and our assets were protected within us as a couple," says Des.

    John says that civil unions are "really just matter of fact issues" now, which have a particular significance for gays and lesbians.

    "If you look at it psychologically, it does take you out of that second class citizenship range.

    "It puts us on par with everybody else."

    The Wellingtonian understands there have been more than 3000 civil unions in New Zealand since the Civil Union Act came into force in April 2005.

    The Outing plays at The Front Room, 5 Hania Street, Mount Victoria from Thursday, October 16 to Saturday, October 18. Tickets are available from Real Groovy. For more information, see
    Ref: - The Dominion Post - The Outing

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