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Lenfest Center Presents Staged Reading of “8”

Lenfest Center for the Arts, with license from the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) and Broadway Impact, will present a one-afternoon-only Staged Reading of “8,”  a play chronicling the historic trial in the federal constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8, on Sunday, Nov. 11, at 2 p.m. in the Keller Theatre.

“8” is written by Academy Award-winning screenwriter and AFER Founding Board Member Dustin Lance Black and will be directed by Rob Mish, director of the Lenfest Center and a 1976 graduate of W&L.

“8” is presented in association with the Lenfest Center for the Arts, W&L Department of Theater and Dance, W&L’s GLBTQ Equality Initiative, Mindbending Productions, and the School of Law arts organizations. “8” is open to the public and tickets are free, but required and can be reserved at the Lenfest Box Office or by calling 540-458-8000. There will be a wine and cheese reception and talk-back immediately following the production in the Kamen Gallery. Donations will be accepted at the door and will benefit W&L GLBTQ and the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) and its federal lawsuit for marriage equality. Visit www.8theplay.com and follow “8” on Twitter: @8theplay or on Facebook.

“8” is an unprecedented account of the Federal District Court trial in Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now Perry v. Brown), the case filed by AFER to overturn Proposition 8, which stripped gay and lesbian Californians of the fundamental freedom to marry.

Black, who penned the Academy Award-winning feature film Milk and the 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” 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 more than $1 million to support AFER’s efforts to achieve full federal marriage equality.

“8” had its West Coast premiere reading at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on Saturday, March 3, 2012, in Los Angeles. The West Coast premiere reading of “8” featured an all-star cast led by Golden Globe Award-winner and Academy and Emmy Award-nominee Brad Pitt as United States District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker; and Academy and Golden Globe Award-winner and Emmy Award-nominee George Clooney and Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winner Martin Sheen as plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel David Boies and Theodore B. Olson. The benefit reading was directed by AFER Founding Board Member Rob Reiner, and raised more than $2 million for the fight to secure full federal marriage equality.

“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 AFER Founding Board Member Dustin Lance Black. “The goal of “8” is to show the world that marriage equality is a basic constitutional right. The facts are on our side and truth always finds the light. AFER and Broadway Impact are doing all we can to help speed that process along.”

Throughout 2012, AFER and Broadway Impact are licensing “8” for free to colleges and community theaters nationwide in order to spur action, dialogue and understanding. Most productions will be followed by a talk back where cast and audience members can discuss the issues presented in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial.

Director Mish states, “As soon as I heard that there was to be a New York production of this play, I began to research it to see if it would be available for us to perform here. Having heard such wonderfully poignant comments about the script I finally got to see a production in Richmond. I also knew having been present at the debate between Maggie Gallagher (she is featured heavily in the play) and Andrew Sullivan on the W&L campus, we were ready. There also were not many places doing “8” throughout Virginia. Our goal is to present both sides of the trial, just as Black portrays them and let the audience come to its own conclusions.”

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.”

On February 7, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a landmark decision upholding the historic August 2010 ruling of the Federal District Court that found Proposition 8 unconstitutional.  The Ninth Circuit concluded:

“Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.  The Constitution simply does not allow for laws of this sort.”