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The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) and Broadway Impact have announced that Academy Award-winning actor George Clooney will star in the West Coast premiere of ‘8,’ a play chronicling the historic trial in the federal constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8, written by AFER Founding Board Member and Academy Award-winning writer Dustin Lance Black and directed by AFER Founding Board Member and acclaimed actor and director Rob Reiner.
The production is an unprecedented account of the Federal District Court trial in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the case filed by AFER to overturn Proposition 8, which stripped gay and lesbian Californians of the fundamental right to marry.
Black, who penned the Academy Award-winning feature film Milk and the new critically-acclaimed film J. Edgar, based ‘8’ on the actual words of the trial transcripts, first-hand observations of the courtroom drama and interviews with the plaintiffs and their families.
‘8’ is set to have its West Coast premiere at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on Saturday, March 3, 2012, in Los Angeles, for an exclusive, one-night-only fundraiser to benefit AFER.
An Academy Award-winning actor, producer, screenwriter and director, Clooney is also a committed human rights activist. In January 2008, he was designated as a United Nations Messenger of Peace. Clooney is the first of an all-star cast of high profile and award-winning actors to be announced.
He and others will play the roles of the legal team, plaintiffs and witnesses for both sides of the historic Proposition 8 case. Additional casting for the all-star benefit will be announced soon. “It is astonishing that gay and lesbian Americans are still treated as second-class citizens,” Clooney said. “I am confident that, very soon, the laws of this nation will reflect the basic truth that gay and lesbian people – like all human beings – are born equal in dignity and rights.”
“This play will continue to show Americans – one by one – that prejudice and fear cannot stand up to truth and justice,” said AFER Board President Chad Griffin. “Our Constitution neither knows nor tolerates the treatment of gays and lesbians as second-class citizens. In its search for greater freedom, this generation has come to see that laws like Proposition 8 serve only to oppress.”
‘8’ had its much-heralded Broadway world premiere on September 19, 2011, at the sold-out Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New York City. The production brought in over one million dollars to support AFER’s efforts to achieve full federal marriage equality. Proposition 8 was struck down by the U.S. District Court in August 2010.
That ruling was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by the anti-marriage proponents of Proposition 8. AFER’s legal team was at the Ninth Circuit last Thursday for a hearing to urge that court to unseal the trial video. The American public was not given a chance to witness the historic trial because the Proponents launched a desperate attempt to forever hide the video recording of the trial.
A ruling on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the release of the trial video is expected soon. The Perry case is widely anticipated to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
“People need to witness what happened in the Proposition 8 trial, if for no other reason than to see inequality and discrimination unequivocally rejected in a court of law where truth and facts matter,” said Black. “I’ve built my career around exposing and uncovering ‘the real story.’
The goal of ’8′ is to show the world that marriage equality is a basic constitutional right and that those who would deny this basic freedom from loving, committed couples have only vitriol and baseless hyperbole to fall back on. The facts are on our side and truth always finds the light. We are doing all we can to help speed that process along.”
In addition to its Broadway and Los Angeles productions, AFER and Broadway Impact are licensing ‘8’ to colleges and community theatres nationwide in order to spur action, dialogue and understanding. AFER and Broadway Impact are helping produce these staged readings across the country with a full slate set for 2012.
The story for’8’ is framed by the trial’s historic closing arguments in June 2010, and features the best arguments and testimony from both sides. Scenes include flashbacks to some of the more jaw-dropping moments of trial, such as the admission by the Proposition 8 supporters’ star witness, David Blankenhorn, that “we would be more American on the day we permitted same-sex marriage than we were on the day before.”
“Because this case involves the constitutional rights of millions of people, it is especially important for the public to see what happened during the trial,” said AFER Senior Project Director Adam Umhoefer. “Both sides had an equal opportunity and ample resources to assemble their strongest teams and put forth their absolute best arguments in a fair setting.
Viewed side-by-side, there is simply no question that there was only one decision the court could have reached. The moment we knew the trial would not be publicly broadcast, we immediately began planning to find a way to show the world what happened in this historic case. This play and our partnership with Broadway Impact allow us to do exactly that.”
“I was lucky enough to watch the initial closing arguments of Perry v. Schwarzenegger in San Francisco,” said Broadway Impact co-founder Rory O’Malley (Tony Award-nominee for The Book of Mormon). “We knew then and there that audiences needed to see and hear this story live, as we had done.
’8′ builds on a successful tradition of documentary theatre—plays like The Laramie Project and The Vagina Monologues, which inspire us with their combination of art and activism. We are thrilled to partner with AFER to bring this story to a national audience.” Tickets for the play will be in high demand and are expected to sell out. The proceeds will go directly to the fight for full federal marriage equality and to support educational efforts on the freedom to marry nationwide.