The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) and Broadway Impact announced in January a full slate of more than 40 productions of Dustin Lance Black’s “8,” a play recounting the historic 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.

Dustin Lance Black

Two of the productions will be staged in North Carolina. Chapel Hill’s Playmaker’s Repertory Theatre will present the play on April 9, followed by the Raleigh Ensemble Players’ production on April 21.

Tim Scales, the Playmaker’s producer for “8,” said his company’s decision to stage the production came first as a suggestion from one of their graduate acting students.

Scales said the play’s timing, as the state faces an anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment, provides the perfect opportunity for art to function as discussion tool.

“I think it’s a way of extending the reach of the discussion by presenting it in a different way,” Scales said. “You open the doors for wider conversation.”

Scales said having a talkback following the performance would be ideal.

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.

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.” In August that year, Proposition 8 was overturned by the district court and later appealed to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On Feb. 7, the court ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

The play’s 24 different roles will be filled with 24 different actors, said Scales. They’ll include professional actors from Playmaker’s, students from the University of North Carolina and other local universities. Scales said some professional actors from around the country will also be participating.

“8” is set to have its West Coast premiere at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on Saturday, March 3, in Los Angeles. The one-night event will also serve as a fundraiser to benefit AFER and will star Academy Award-winning actor, producer, screenwriter and director George Clooney.

The play made its Broadway world premiere on Sept. 19 to a sold-out house at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. Over $1 million was raised to benefit AFER.

AFER and Broadway Impact are licensing “8” for free to colleges and community theaters across the country. Organizers hope they will inspire action and conversation. They say most productions will be followed by a talkback where cast and audience members can discuss the issues presented by the California trial. : :

— Matt Comer is a former editor of qnotes. This article compiled from staff interviews and release.


Plan to go

Playmaker’s Repertory & UNC-Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC . April 9 .

Raleigh Ensemble Players Theatre Company
Raleigh, NC . April 21 .

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.