'8,' Dustin Lance Black's Prop. 8 Play
March 4, 2012 3:14 PM   Subscribe

Last night Dustin Lance Black's traveling Prop. 8 play, "8," was performed at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles with a star-studded cast. "Framed around the trial's historic closing arguments in June 2010, '8' provides an intimate look what unfolded when the issue of same-sex marriage was on trial." "Saturday's benefit performance was broadcast live on YouTube, where director Rob Reiner said it drew 200,000 viewers."* You can watch an archive of the performance here [02:01.32].
"George Clooney and Martin Sheen play plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, the all-star attorneys who notably faced-off in Bush v. Gore. Christine Lahti and Jamie Lee Curtis play plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, a lesbian couple together for eleven years and the parents of four boys. Matthew Morrison and Matt Bomer play plaintiffs Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, a gay couple together over ten years.

Jane Lynch plays despicable opponent of same-sex marriage Maggie Gallagher, co-founder and former chairman of the National Organization for Marriage. Rob Reiner directs and plays David Blankenhorn, founder and president of the Institute for American Values. Additional cast includes Emmy Award-winning journalist Campbell Brown, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, prominent gay rights activist Cleve Jones, Rory O’Malley, Chris Colfer, Emmy Award-winner Yeardley Smith, and acclaimed Star Trek television and film star George Takei.

Brad Pitt plays Judge Vaughn Walker."*
posted by ericb (21 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
"The reading ... raised more than $2 million to further the cause of securing full marriage equality at the federal level, more than double what it raised at its Sept. 19 New York premier."*
posted by ericb at 3:16 PM on March 4, 2012

Oh, cool. I'm glad someone posted this. I was working on a post about it myself, but had to wait out my 24 hours between postings.

The play is the result of the continued placing under seal of the actual video of the Prop 8 trial, which was instituted before the trial began by the Supreme Court and was recently continued.

Dustin Lance Black is best known for winning an Oscar for his screenplay for Milk.

This page shows the full cast of the show.

Also, the video on YouTube starts with 17m55s of "stream starts soon", followed by a video montage which sums up media coverage of the Prop 8 ruling and situation. If you want to start the actual play, you will want to start the video at 29m50s, where the show opens with a pro-Prop 8 television commerical to help set the stage.

Here is a link including the timecode to jump to beginning of content in the stream, and here is a link which jumps to the start of the theater production.
posted by hippybear at 3:26 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, it should be noted that contrary to the FPP, Reiner does not play Blankenhorn. That part is played by John C Reilly.
posted by hippybear at 3:29 PM on March 4, 2012

I was able to attend the NY premiere- Bradley Whitford was particularly amazing as Charles Cooper. I wonder if they made any changes to the script from the NY reading?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:58 PM on March 4, 2012

Yes, Lance worked on the script between the New York and L.A readings. We didn't get the final version until about a week ago.

I was part of the L.A. performance, and it really is amazing what a difference it made to go from a cold stage read to a live show. I know it's basic human social psychology, but I didn't think much of the play itself until it hit all of its emotional and political marks with a packed house. At least four of the performers (Clooney, Reilly, Takei, and Lynch) totally locked down their characters once the audience came in - it really reinforced the positive bond that can occur between performer and audience when everyone's yearning for the same truths.

I don't think 8 is a great play - it reads like a sketch written for fundraising purposes, which it is - but it's probably the closest most people will come to ever reading the court transcripts. And as far as Big Theatrical Events go, it had more heart and goodwill - onstage and off - than almost anything I've been a part of.
posted by mykescipark at 4:34 PM on March 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think the best activism is the subtle kind; this reading sends the clear notice to judges that if they rule in favour of same sex marriage, they may be played by Brad Pitt, even though they're actually senior citizens.

Now someone needs to stage a version of Bowers v. Hardwick, featuring Lyle Lovett as Justice Burger, Steve Buscemi as Justice Powell, and Harvey Keitel as Justice White.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:37 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't think 8 is a great play - it reads like a sketch written for fundraising purposes, which it is - but it's probably the closest most people will come to ever reading the court transcripts.

Based on what I saw in NY, I agree.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:47 PM on March 4, 2012

I'm still hoping for the actual trial video to be released.
posted by hippybear at 4:57 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is wonderful.
posted by odinsdream at 5:44 PM on March 4, 2012

It's not going to win a Tony, but it was still a very moving performance.
posted by jb at 5:45 PM on March 4, 2012

Reiner does not play Blankenhorn. That part is played by John C Reilly.

That is as brilliant as Brad Pitt as Vaughn Walker is weird.
posted by eugenen at 5:49 PM on March 4, 2012

I watched as much of it as I could, but too many of the performances made it look like they didn't even rehearse the show. Such a pity (for me).
posted by Guy Smiley at 6:09 PM on March 4, 2012

If you watch no other part of this, check out Jane Lynch's entrance as Maggie Gallagher at 46:30.
posted by eugenen at 6:15 PM on March 4, 2012

Guy Smiley: The actors arrived at 1PM. They had never done the show even once. The house opened at 7:30. Pretty damn good for six hours.
posted by mykescipark at 6:18 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

That's great, as is Martin Sheen delivering Ted Olson's final closing argument speech. You'll find that at 1h46m7s.

(BTW, I really like how well YouTube works with this lengthy video. You can slide the time marker to any point and the loading and streaming works pretty much instantly from that point. Well done, YT!)
posted by hippybear at 6:22 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you watch no other part of this, check out Jane Lynch's entrance as Maggie Gallagher at 46:30.

That's great! Wonder how Maggie Gallagher felt about that. Strangely enough, she attended the NY performance.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:29 PM on March 4, 2012

Thank you! I forgot this was happening (flash floods!) and I intended to watch it live.
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:58 PM on March 4, 2012

For me, there's something charming about the fact that the actors did this on the fly. I didn't mind the imperfections--in a way, it reinforced the... generosity? Dedication? Of the actors, that they'd take the time to do this even though they knew it would be recorded and that they *wouldn't* nail it. That A-list stars still have that "Hey, let's put on a show!" attitude is delightful. (I was giggling from the get-go, when everyone was just sitting there, and clearly it should have started, and then you hear someone shout "SAY 'ALL RISE'!" and the woman said "All rise," and the play began.

I enjoyed the subversion of casting openly gay characters as the people testifying against gay marriage. Dustin Lance Black had a bit of that happen in Milk as well.

John C. Reilly and George Clooney's exchanges and Sheen's closing argument were the highlights for me.
posted by tzikeh at 9:29 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Kevin Bacon seems like a decent guy, and he's a good actor...

...But if ever you find yourself being portrayed by Kevin Bacon, I think you can conclude you're on the wrong side of history.
posted by meese at 10:11 PM on March 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

I was seriously impressed by the actors - sometimes I forget how much talent people need to do what they do until I see them do it live as a staged reading (which is very difficult). I was especially impressed with Clooney, Bacon, and Lahti (though Lahti also read it in New York, so she had more experience); I was also really impressed by Pitt, who played a character so much older than he is with a great deal of gravitas and believability. And Takei brought down the house with his dead-pan, note-perfect delivery. (My SO declared one of his lines the best of the show "It was in the internet" - but I think that the line "We put fear and prejudice on trial" is the most powerful).

It was through Takei's twitter feed that I heard about this play. He's also involved in a new musical about the experience of Japanese Americans in internment camps in WW2 - for which they are also selling Takei Pride merchandise.
posted by jb at 10:08 AM on March 5, 2012

I've watched this twice already. It is so, so well done. The part where one of the moms is describing her birth experience brought tears to my eyes.
posted by odinsdream at 7:47 PM on March 5, 2012

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