Sunday, October 21, 2012

8: The Play

The Proposition 8 trial was scheduled to be the first federal trial to be shown on video in other courthouses and through YouTube. But days before it was to begin, defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent the trial from being televised at all. By a 5-4 decision, live streaming was banned, and dissemination of the video recorded during the trial has been in litigation ever since.

This was part of the reason that several attempts were made to reenact the trial with actors. This version however is an actual play of some 90 minutes, based on transcripts of the trial as well as interviews with participants and observations made by playwright Dustin Lance Black during the trial.

  The first staged reading was held at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on Broadway, on September 19, 2011. The Broadway production featured Bob Balaban as Judge Walker, John Lithgow as Ted Olson, Morgan Freeman as David Boise, Bradley Whitford as Charles Cooper; Christine Lahti and Ellen Barkin as plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Steir; Kate Shindle, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Ben Rosenfeld, Matt Bomer, Cheyenne Jackson, Yeardley Smith, K. Todd Freeman, Anthony Edwards, Stephen Spinella, Rory O’Malley, Rob Reiner, Ken Leung, Larry Kramer, Jayne Houdysell and TV journalist Campbell Brown as the TV journalist.

The West Coast Premiere reading was in Los Angeles on March 12, 2012, and was broadcast and streamed worldwide. It was directed by Rob Reiner, and featured Brad Pitt as Judge Walker, Martin Sheen as Ted Olson, George Clooney as David Boies, Kevin Bacon as Charles Cooper, Christine Lahti and Jamie Lee Curtis as plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier; Vanessa Garcia, Jansen Panettiere, Matt Bomer, Matthew Morrison, Yeardley Smith, Rory O’Malley, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, James Pickens Jr, Chris Kolfer,John C. Reilly, George Takei, Cleve Jones, Jane Lynch and Campbell Brown.  The entire Hollywood reading may be viewed here.

  Since then staged readings have been scheduled so that each venue gets its own unique performance date. There have been readings in Denver, Atlanta, Charlotte, Grand Rapids, San Diego, Fargo, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City, Washington, Bozeman, Memphis, San Antonio, Tacoma and many other cities and towns.

  At the reading in San Francisco in early October, playwright Dustin Lance Black was in the cast, along with Holland Taylor of the classic TV courtroom drama “The Practice,” Patricia Wettig of the TV shows “Brothers and Sisters” and “Thirtysomething,” as well as American Conservatory Theatre actors and California Assembly Speaker John Perez. In the audience for this reading at ACT were the actual four plaintiffs and the judge in the case, Vaughn Walker. There was also a recent reading in Sacramento, where its director, Kate Sullivan Gibbens, talked afterwards about working on the play with Black.

In the days just before the Arcata event, readings will have been staged in Des Moines, Baltimore, Anchorage, Austin and Minneapolis. Originally the readings built towards election day. Several states have ballot measures affecting marriage equality, and of course, one presidential candidate (President Barack Obama) favors marriage equality and the other (Mitt Romney) does not.  But the demand for readings continue, and now more are scheduled across the U.S. and Canada (plus Scotland, England and Australia) to the end of June.

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