An all-star cast of Hollywood royalty came together on Broadway on September 19 to premier the new play ‘8,’ a true account of the federal challenge to California’s Proposition 8—and to show their support for LGBT equal rights.
Oscar-, Emmy- and Tony-winning actors Morgan Freeman, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Anthony Edwards, Yeardley Smith, Cheyenne Jackson, Christine Lahti, Rob Reiner, Bradley Whitford, Jayne Houdyshell and more took part in the performance at the Eugene O’Neill Theater. Oscarwinning Milkscreenwriter Dustin Lance Black composed ‘8’ based on court transcripts and testimony in Perry vs. Brown, the lawsuit seeking to overturn Proposition 8. Tony-winning director Joe Mantello helmed the one-night-only reading.
Freeman and Lithgow portrayed the key roles of David Boies and Theodore Olson, respectively, the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs in Perry v. Brown. On the opposing side, Bradley Whitford played the Proposition 8 attorney Charles Cooper.
And the celebrities in attendance weren’t confined to the stage. The audience for ‘8’ included activist Lt. Dan Choi, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Harvey Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk, journalists Barbara Walters and Brian Williams, and many more.
The reading was produced by the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which is the sole sponsor of Perry v. Brown; and Broadway Impact, the nonprofit organization of theatre artists and fans in support of marriage equality.
‘8’ is based on actual court testimony in the ongoing case challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the 2009 voter referendum in California that overturned that state’s legalization of same-sex marriage. Black, an AFER Founding Board Member, was inspired to pen the play out of frustration that video testimony by the plaintiffs and the defense has been kept sealed.
But in a phenomenal coincidence, U.S. District Court Chief Judge James Ware ruled in a related case, on the day of ‘8’’s premiere, that the video recordings of the Prop 8 trial should be released to the public; a decision heralded by AFER. “Transparency is pivotal to the public perception of the judiciary’s legitimacy and independence,” Ware wrote in his ruling. (On Sept. 26, however, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled Ware’s decision, putting the tape’s public release on hold indefinitely.) Now that the premiere has wrapped, AFER plans to license ‘8’ to regional theater companies and universities for local productions “in order to spur action, dialogue and understanding.” –Stacey Eldridge