We may have had some victories in the same-sex marriage issue on Election Day, with legalization victories in Washington, Maryland and Maine, but the affair is still very much a hot button. On Nov. 30, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear about a half dozen challenges to same-sex marriage, including California’s infamous Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage and has already been declared unconstitutional by that state’s Supreme Court.
This controversial case went to trial in 2010, and against the desires of the judge and plaintiffs, the State of California sealed the videos of the case from the public but was not able to do the same with the transcripts. That is where Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black steps in. He wrote his play 8 from those transcripts as well as interviews with participants and media coverage during the actual trial.
“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 baseless hyperbole to fall back on,” said Melissa Gills of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER). “At the hundreds of theaters where the play has been performed, audiences walk out with a clear understanding of the arguments made by anti-marriage forces, and importantly, are able to witness inequality and discrimination unequivocally rejected in a court of law where truth and facts matter. These performances have been incredibly important in educating audiences and changing hearts and minds about marriage equality.”
When the anti-marriage proponents of Prop. 8 fiercely rejected the televised and Internet broadcast of the proceedings in the 12-day trial, AFER knew they had to find a way to show the world what happened in this historic case. Now, the Maui Academy of Performing Arts (MAPA) will perform a reading of the play on Friday, Nov. 16 and Saturday, Nov. 17 at the Steppingstone Playhouse in Queen Ka’ahumanu Center. All the net proceeds will go to AFER (afer.org).
“As with many sensitive topics, live theater offers audiences the opportunity to engage with these subjects in a safe, thoughtful environment,” said David Johnston, MAPA’s Executive and Artistic Director. “Our goal is to bring the Maui community together to shed light on the very personal stories attached to this important issue.”
The play has been performed by theaters across the west coast to great acclaim. Rob Reiner directed the A-list version, which featured George Clooney, Martin Sheen and a host of other Hollywood actors. It was an immediate hit.
“When Dustin Lance Black wrote the script for 8, he based it on the actual words of the trial transcripts,” said Gills. “So what you see in the play are the best arguments and testimony from both sides, laid out as they were in court. In many ways, the case served as the nation’s first ‘truth commission’ on marriage equality. We had 17 expert witnesses testify during trial and directly refute the arguments made by anti-marriage forces. Interestingly, our opponents called only two witnesses to the stand during the entire trial, one of whom has since come out publicly in favor of marriage equality.”
Attendees are encouraged to stay after the show for a discussion of the play’s themes. The post-show conversation is a mediated, town hall format where the audience determines the topics based on what moves them and where the discussion goes.
“As an educational performing arts organization, we believe that live theater can be a powerful tool for bringing the community together to explore broader themes and issues,” says Adam Burke of MAPA. “Throughout the years, the theater community has brought important social issues to mainstream audiences through groundbreaking works like To Kill a Mockingbird, Inherit The Wind and Love! Valor! Compassion! We’re honored to continue that tradition. Our goal is to engage, entertain and educate in every production we do, and to encourage dialogue in the community about the different questions raised by each show.”
According to AFER, any theater can put on 8 free of charge (they have to submit a form to AFER first). That helped MAPA, which is selling tickets for 8 at just $8 for adults and $5 for students under 18.
Call 244-8760 or visit mauiacademy.org. Tickets are also available at the customer service kiosk at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center.