Dustin Lance Black continues to raise awareness for equality with his new play 8, based on the court trial to overturn Proposition 8, California's gay marriage ban.
Black, who won an Academy Award for his acclaimed Milk screenplay, sat in on the trial. “This was the first time I’ve ever seen our case argued by the most capable lawyers in the world, in a court of law where the other side had to raise their right hand and swear to tell the truth,” Black tells Associated Press. “That is where, I think, for the first time, we in the gay and lesbian movement found sanity in the debate about who we are.”
Yet due to Prop. 8 backers successfully convincing the U.S. Supreme Court to bar broadcast of the trial, few people were able to watch it. Only a transcript would be available. “It killed me to think that this would only live inside this courtroom for the dozens to see and not the country to see,” Black says. “It killed me and I think it killed all of us in the room. We immediately started trying to figure out, ‘How do we get this truth out there?'”
Black used the actual words of the trial transcripts, firsthand observations of the courtroom drama, and interviews with the plaintiffs and their families for the script for 8.
The one night only Broadway staged reading on September 19 has drawn one of the most illustrious casts in recent memory, including Ellen Barkin, Matt Bomer, Morgan Freeman, Cheyenne Jackson, Larry Kramer, Christine Lahti, John Lithgow, Rob Reiner, Kate Shindle, Stephen Spinella, and Bradley Whitford, and Tony Award-winner Joe Mantello will direct. 8 will be performed at New York's Eugene O’Neill Theatre (230 West 49th Street). Proceeds from the reading will go directly to the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which funds the fight for full federal marriage equality and supports educational efforts on the freedom to marry nationwide.
Following the September 19 debut, AFER and Broadway Impact will license 8 to schools and community organizations nationwide in order to spur action, dialogue and understanding.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit afer.org/broadway8. To learn how your local theater can produce 8, visit BroadwayImpact.com.
See the actors next to their real-life counterparts on the following pages.
Bob Balaban, a veteran actor whose credits include Midnight Cowboy, will play Judge Vaughn Walker, who is gay and ruled Prop. 8 is unconstitutional.
Matt Bomer, star of the hit USA series White Collar, will play Prop. 8 plaintiff Jeff Zarrillo, half of a gay couple of 10 years (with Paul Katami).
Ellen Barkin, who won a Tony Award for The Normal Heart this year, will play plaintiff Sandy Stier, half of a lesbian couple (with Kris Perry) that have been together for eleven years and are the parents of four boys
Award-winning actress Christine Lahti will play plaintiff Kris Perry, half of a lesbian couple (with Stier) that have been together for eleven years and are the parents of four boys.
Larry Kramer, tireless activist, playwright of The Normal Heart, and author of the forthcoming The American People, will play Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. Kramer tells AP, "I just think it's so important that we know our history the history of how badly we're treated and how hard we have to fight to get what we deserve, which is equality."
Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman will play David Boies, one of the two attorneys appointed by AFER to lead the case filed to overturn Prop. 8.
Veteran actor John Lithgow, whose credits include The World According to Garp and Dexter, will play Theodore B. Olson, one of the two attorneys appointed by AFER to lead the case filed to overturn Prop. 8.
Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa on The Simpsons, will play Dr. Nancy Cott, a Harvard Professor who specializes in the history of marriage.
Longtime equality activist, actor-direct Rob Reiner will play David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, who was one of two witnesses called by the opponents of gay marriage. "If the world sees what happens in this trial, they'll realize that the other side simply had no case," Reiner tells AP. "They presented no evidence and the witnesses that they did present — the two that they did — made our case for us."
Former ER star Anthony Edwards will play Dr. Ilan Meyer, a Columbia social psychologist and expert in the relationship between discrimination and mental health outcomes.
Former West Wing star Bradley Whitford will play Charles Cooper, the chief attorney for the antigay marriage side. Whitford tells AP, "My goal in a situation like this is to be as clear, as articulate, as well-intentioned, and with as little mustache-twirling as possible."
Rory O'Mally, a recent Tony Award nominee for The Book of Mormon and a founder of Broadway Impact, will play trial witness Ryan Kendall. "I believe that this is something we're going to be telling our children about," O'Malley tells AP. "I believe this is the Brown v. Board of Education of our civil rights movement."
Stephen Spinella, perhaps best known for Angels in America, will play Dr. Gary Segura, Professor of Political Science at Stanford and an expert on the subject of the political power or powerlessness of minority groups in the United States.
Tony Award-nominated actress Jayne Houdyshell will play marriage equality opponent Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and chairman and co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage.
Campbell Brown, former CNN anchor, will play a broadcast journalist who helps frame the court case. "Never in a million years did I ever think that this would happen," Brown tells AP. "It sounded like such a fun night, it's for a great cause that I strongly support, and so I was thrilled to be a part of it."