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Director Rob Reiner.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) and Broadway Impact have made available the YouTube webcast of a stage-reading of 8, Dustin Lance Black's play about the Proposition 8 trial. The performance, which features an all-star cast led by Brad Pitt as Judge Vaughn Walker and directed by Rob Reiner, was live-streamed on YouTube on Saturday, March 3, 2012. It is now available for viewing on AFER's YouTube channel.
Black, who won an Academy Award for his screenplay of Gus Van Sant's Milk, decided to dramatize the Proposition 8 trial in 2011 precisely because the proponents of Proposition 8 have been so determined to prevent the video recording of the trial from being released.
In September 2011, soon before his play's premiere in a one-night reading on Broadway, Black told the Associated Press that the trial "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. . . . It killed me to think that this would only live inside this courtroom for the dozens to see and not the country to see, 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 crafted the play from the transcripts of the trial, supplemented by his firsthand observations of the trial and interviews with the plaintiffs and their families.
The play is framed by the trial's closing arguments in June 2010, and features the best arguments and testimony from both sides during the trial. Scenes include flashbacks to some of the more jaw-dropping moments from the trial, such as the admission by the Proposition 8 supporters' witness, David Blankenhorn, that "we would be more American on the day we permitted same-sex marriage than we were on the day before."
In the performance livestreamed on March 3, Brad Pitt stars as United States District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who found Proposition 8 unconstitutional after presiding over the historic twelve-day public trial.
Pitt was joined by George Clooney and Martin Sheen as Plaintiffs' lead co-counsel David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, the renowned attorneys who notably faced-off in Bush v. Gore, the case in which the Supreme Court in effect appointed George W. Bush President of the United States, before teaming up to fight for marriage equality.
Other cast members include Christine Lahti and Jamie Lee Curtis as plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, a lesbian couple who have been together for eleven years and are the parents of four boys, two of which figure in the play. Matthew Morrison and Matt Bomer play plaintiffs Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, a gay couple who have been together over ten years.
Kevin Bacon portrays Charles J. Cooper, the lead attorney for the anti-marriage proponents of Proposition 8. Jane Lynch stars as Maggie Gallagher, co-founder and former chairman of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage. John C. Reilly plays David Blankenhorn, founder and president of the Institute for American Values, who testified ineffectually for the proponents of Proposition 8, but when subjected to a withering cross-examination by David Boies, actually provided support for the benefits of same-sex marriage.
In announcing the webcast, AFER Board President Chad Griffin (who has just been tapped to head the Human Rights Campaign) said, "At long last each and every American will be able to see for themselves what happens when prejudice and fear are put on trial in a court of law. For over two years, the anti-marriage proponents of Proposition 8 have fought tooth and nail to hide their discriminatory arguments from the American people. But on Saturday night, thanks to YouTube and our incredible cast, people across the nation, from Los Angeles to Little Rock to Baltimore, will get to watch as our Constitution's promise of liberty and equality for all is protected."
The performance, which was the West Coast premiere of the play, took place at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles. Bryan Singer, acclaimed film director, was the presenting sponsor for the benefit event, which supported the continuing fight to secure full federal marriage equality.
The Los Angeles reading of 8 comes just weeks after the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the historic August 2010 ruling of the Federal District Court that found Proposition 8 unconstitutional.
8 may be viewed here.
AFER's website is here.
Throughout 2012, AFER and Broadway Impact are licensing "8" for free to colleges and community theaters nationwide in order to spur dialogue, understanding and action.
"I was lucky enough to watch the closing arguments of Perry v. Schwarzenegger in San Francisco," said Broadway Impact co-founder Rory O'Malley. "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."
Read more about Broadway Impact here.
Here Rob Reiner announces the webcast of 8.