The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), in partnership with Broadway Impact, has announced additional casting and roles for the highly anticipated one-night only staged reading of “8,” a new play chronicling the historic trial in the federal legal challenge to California’s Proposition 8.
The play is written by AFER Founding Board Member and Academy Award-winning writer Dustin Lance Black and will be directed by two-time Tony Award-winning actor and director Joe Mantello.
Academy, Tony and four-time Emmy Award nominee Bob Balaban; acclaimed “White Collar” television star Matt Bomer; Emmy Award-winning journalist Campbell Brown; celebrated playwright and gay rights activist Larry Kramer; two-time Academy Award-nominated, multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning, two-time Tony Award-winning actor John Lithgow; Tony Award nominee and Broadway Impact Co-Founder Rory O’Malley; and Emmy Award winner and three-time Golden Globe Award nominee Bradley Whitford will appear in the world premiere of “8” on Broadway, joining the previously announced Anthony Edwards, Morgan Freeman, Cheyenne Jackson, Christine Lahti, Rob Reiner, Yeardley Smith and Marisa Tomei. The production 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 eliminated the right to marry for gay and lesbian couples in California.
Black, who penned the Academy Award-winning feature film Milk, 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 new play will have its world premiere on Broadway at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New York City on Monday, September 19, 2011 for an exclusive, one-night only fundraiser to benefit AFER. Additional casting for the all-star benefit will be announced soon.
“The fight for marriage equality is not an abstract battle,” said Chad Griffin, AFER Board President. “It’s a fight for the rights of real people, many of them our friends and our neighbors — and all of them our fellow Americans. With this play we are pulling back the curtain on discrimination and bigotry by showing the American public the prejudiced and absurd arguments being made by those defending measures like Proposition 8. The dark walls of discrimination are crumbling, and this play and the trial it is based on show why and how.”
Bob Balaban will play US District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, who ruled over a year ago in California that Prop. 8 is unconstitutional. Morgan Freeman and John Lithgow will play David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, the two attorneys appointed by AFER to lead the case filed to overturn Prop. 8. Bradley Whitford will play Charles Cooper, the lead attorney for the defense, the proponents of Prop. 8. Matt Bomer and Cheyenne Jackson will play Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami, a gay couple of ten years and two of the four plaintiffs in the Prop. 8 trial; Christine Lahti and Marisa Tomei will play the other plaintiffs, Sandy Stier and Kris Perry, a lesbian couple that have been together for eleven years and are the parents of four boys.
Anthony Edwards, Larry Kramer, Rory O’Malley, Rob Reiner and Yeardley Smith will play witnesses in the trial: Anthony Edwards will play Dr. Ilan Meyer, a Columbia social psychologist and expert in the relationship between discrimination and mental health outcomes; Larry Kramer will play Evan Wolfson, the Founder and President of Freedom to Marry, the national campaign to end marriage discrimination; Rory O’Malley will play Ryan Kendall, a young gay man who was forced by his parents to undergo gay conversion therapy; Rob Reiner will play David Blankenhorn, Founder and President of the Institute for American Values and the principal witness for the opponents of marriage equality; Yeardley Smith will play Dr. Nancy Cott, a Harvard Professor who specializes in the history of marriage.
Following the New York debut on September 19th, AFER and Broadway Impact will license “8” to schools and community organizations nationwide in order to spur action, dialogue and understanding. AFER and Broadway Impact will coordinate these staged readings across the country, so that “8” will live on beyond its September premiere.
The story for “8” is framed by the trial’s historic closing arguments in June 2010, but features the best arguments and witness testimony presented by both legal teams. Scenes include reenactments of many of the well-documented jaw-dropping moments of trial, such as the admission by the Prop. 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.”
AFER prevailed in federal district court when, based on the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Chief Judge Walker concluded that California had no rational basis or vested interest in denying gays and lesbians marriage licenses and thus found Proposition 8 “unconstitutional” on August 4, 2010. It is currently under appeal by the anti-marriage proponents and is being expedited through the court system at a relatively rapid pace.
Unfortunately, the American public was not given a chance to witness the historic trial because the proponents of Proposition 8 launched a number of desperate attempts to forever hide the trial videotapes. Although the trial proceedings were open to the public, and all courtroom testimony and events were thoroughly documented, the trial video most vividly compares the weakness of the proponents’ arguments to the well-reasoned, valid and constitutionally-based arguments and evidence put forth by AFER’s renowned legal team, plaintiffs and expert witnesses.
The trial videotapes have been kept under seal due to a federal protective order. On August 29th, 2011, AFER’s legal team made a strong case for the full and unedited release of the trial recordings at a hearing before Chief Judge Ware at US District Court. While a swift decision is expected from Chief Judge Ware, there is no guarantee that the trial footage will ever be available for the public to see. This is precisely the reason Black wrote “8.”
Proceeds from the September 19th reading will go directly to the fight for full federal marriage equality and to support educational efforts on the freedom to marry nationwide.
For more information including how to buy tickets, visit: www.afer.org/broadway8. For information on how your local theater can produce “8,” visit www.BROADWAYIMPACT.com. Follow “8” on Twitter: @8theplay or on Facebook.