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By Dan Woog
There are eight million stories in the Naked City. There were also 50,000 runners in this month’s Naked City – er, New York City – Marathon. Each of them had a story too – about why he or she trained for months, then pushed through pain to run for hours on hard asphalt streets.
Sixteen of those stories involved Broadway Impact. That’s the grassroots organization mobilizing New York’s theater community in support of marriage equality. Broadway shows and marathon running may seem an unlikely match. But the theater world is very gay-friendly, and marathon-running appeals to many Broadway types who can run on their own time, in groups with friends, and help a cause they believe in.
Members of Broadway Impact planned to run last year. But Hurricane Sandy canceled the 2012 New York Marathon. Rising to the challenge – “another opening, another show,” you might say – the group raised more than $66,000 this year.
One of those runners was Jimmy Ludwig. An actor in the original cast of “Spamalot,” and currently in “2.0,” he is friendly with some of the founders of Broadway Impact.
“People think the theater community is always ‘look at me,'” he says. “But that’s not true. A lot of what we do is, ‘How can I help?’ We work very hard – eight shows a week – but we also reach out to friends and relatives whenever we can.”
Ludwig calls it “mind-numbing that a marriage system so patently unfair exists in much of the country.” Recently, an old high school friend called. She was headed to New York, where her lesbian daughter would be married. They wanted Ludwig to be their witness.
“I turned into their Jewish grandmother,” Ludwig laughs. “I bought flowers for them, and took pictures. It was an amazing day. Everyone wept.”
Then, however, the newlyweds returned to New Mexico. “They had to pretend what happened wasn’t valid. It didn’t exist there. That angered me to the depths of my soul.”
This was Ludwig’s fourth New York Marathon, sixth overall. However, it was the first one for which he raised money.
“As soon as you have a goal, your life changes,” he says. “Preparing for something adds direction to everything you do. Bringing fundraising into this seemed like a natural next step.”
Ludwig did more than run and raise money. He also sang the national anthem, before the start of the wheelchair portion of the race.
His fellow actors who also run do it “to stay sane,” he says. “A marathon can be very meditative.”
Those who do not run find the actor’s efforts “amazing.” Jack Noseworthy, the star of “2.0,” was fascinated by the marathon. “I think he’s catching the bug,” Ludwig notes.
Other members of Broadway Impact include Jeremy Ritz-Totten, who four years ago boarded the group’s bus for a march on Washington. He met the man who became his husband. Ritz-Totten now runs so that other gay couples can be recognized too.
Tyson Anne Obrecht is running again, after a major hip injury and several surgeries. Marvi Medower, a staunch LGBT ally, once thought she would never walk again after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Brian Sears could not run this year, due to his “Book of Mormon” schedule. But he raised funds anyway, to support Broadway Impact.
Sean Martin is the public relations director at Discovery Channel. He did not run in high school or college – nor did he play any sport – but in 2004, after cheering on two friends running the New York Marathon, he went to McDonald’s. Seeing so many runners who “deserved” to be there, he felt “disgusted” to be out of shape.
He began running, entered the lottery for the race, and made it. He finished his first marathon in 4:20, then cut his time to 3:40 and 3:26.
Martin is proud to support Broadway Impact. Since its founding in 2008 – to fight California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 – he says, “they’ve educated a lot of people.”
Martin is not a Broadway performer, but he has many theater friends. Broadway Impact welcomes fans as well as actors. The group’s “impact” is indeed broad. Martin’s boss at Discovery Channel gave a “hefty” donation.
Others have too. “I was raised Irish-Catholic,” Martin says. “I went to Catholic University. I posted about Broadway Impact on Facebook, and I’ve been really surprised by the people I know who have donated. I wouldn’t think a lot of them would support this cause. I have a Republican friend from Oklahoma. Her whole family donated!”
It’s a Broadway tradition to wish actors good luck with the phrase “break a leg.” That’s not exactly what marathon runners want to hear. Unless, of course, you’re an actor raising funds for gay marriage, thanks to the tireless work of Broadway Impact.