Sunday, July 29, 2012

"8" the Play

Last night I proudly took part in a one-night-only staged reading of "8" the Play by Academy Award winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

"8" is an unprecedented account of the Federal District Court trial in Perry V. Schwarzenegger (now Perry V. Brown), the case filed by the American Foundation for Equal Rights to overturn Proposition 8, which stripped gay and lesbian Californians of the fundamental freedom to marry.

I played Chief Justice Vaughn Walker (the Brad Pitt part in the video below).  I have not acted since the summer I was accepted into the Hello Friend reading program at Fordham University--which led directly into the doctoral program--so this was a simple way to step back into it (only one rehearsal!).

But more importantly, it felt good to take part in a theatrical experience that promotes discussion, tolerance and equality. The show came about because the Supreme Court blocked plans to broadcast the trial therefore denying the nation access to the powerful testimony of the four plaintiffs. However, the transcripts could not be hidden and "8" the Play brings the proceedings to the people.

It's a clever way around the Supreme Court ruling, no?  Now, productions are taking place all over America with "talk back" sessions following each performance.

At our talk--which was a bit of preaching to the choir--the issue was brought up about the protect our children strategy put forth by supporters of Prop 8. How fear and manipulation were used to ignite an emotional response from the voters to vote yes.

One cast member, when relating a story about a friend who didn't know what to say to her child about her attending a "gay" wedding,  reminded us that the focus is always on love, never sex. She told her friend to simply tell her son she was going to celebrate the love between two of her male friends who were getting married.  That's enough.  And she added, "if you attend an opposite-sex marriage you don't say, 'and after they say their vows they have a honeymoon and then they have sex.' You say, 'they are getting married.'  It's no different."

The overarching theme of our discussion was "what can I do to promote equality?" And the consensus was that we each have a responsibility to speak up when someone says hateful, harmful things.  Call them out on it in a respectful manner, without anger or accusation.  If someone says "that's gay"(the implication being negative) say something.  The less acceptable it is to promote prejudice and negativity the sooner it'll stop.

At least that's the idea.


Anonymous said...

Glad that it went well, and good to know that your return to the stage involved getting out an important message. i am just disappointed that you didn't' come visit me before hand to do research on Judge Vaughan and to make sure that you had the San Francisco vibe down just right. I'm sure it was a triumph all the same. :) and hugs.

Steve Reed said...

Sounds like a terrific production. I hope I get to see it sometime. Congrats on your return to the stage, especially in such a meaningful way!

Carrie Simpson said...

Wish I could have seen it, Gary! Thanks for such a well-written intro to the play!

Gary said...

Gregg - I will have to do some post-show research! I am long overdue for a trip out west.

Steve - Your comment made me take a look back at their website to see if any productions were scheduled outside the U.S. (I don't know why they would be but you never know.) The star studded YouTube version is well done. Check it out when you have the chance.

Carrie! Welcome to FYB! I wish you could have been there too. Ed was the only one who was able to make it. Next time perhaps we can do our own production :)

Pauline said...

Good on you. I so agree with your statements around what can one do to promote equality. We do each have a responsibility to speak up when someone says hateful, harmful things. We have to be ready for hateful harmful things to be said back to us... but it's worth every word if we can be proud that we didn't remain silent in the face of cruelty.

Gary said...

Pauline - There is a monologue in the show delivered by Matthew Morrison in the video (it begins at 37:47) that speaks to the emotional pain brought about from harmful words. I wish that I had the opportunity to deliver that speech in our production because it is raw and honest and full of conflicting emotions (pain, anger, bewilderment, frustration, hopelessness, hopefulness, confusion) and I have yet to read it or watch it without crying.

It is sometimes very hard to speak up against cruelty and ignorance and I can't say that I always have (I have probably even been guilty of being, unknowingly, on the other side of this) but as I get older I have less patience for remaining silent or standing by.

Ms.M said...

Wow, I must be living under a school rock cause I haven't heard of this production. It sounds fabulous and I am definitely putting this on my to be watched list.

I am sure you did a wonderful job.



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