Video: Courtesy of American Foundation for Equal Rights
In response to Proposition 8's supporters fighting to keep court proceedings sealed from the public, Dustin Lance Black created "8," a documentary play based on transcripts and interviews from 2010's Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which overturned the voter-approved measure as unconstitutional. Raising $2 million for the American Foundation for Equal Rights on Saturday, Hollywood A-listers banded together for a fundraiser reading of the play at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Kevin Bacon, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Martin Sheen all played their parts as a show of support for marriage equality in California and across the nation—a nation that could watch Black's play for the first time streaming live on YouTube (video above).
A last-minute addition to the cast, Pitt lent the production much of its press attention for his portrayal of Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who presided over the case argued by David Boies (Clooney) and Theodore B. Olson (Sheen)—attorneys for the two gay couples who sued California—and Charles Cooper (Bacon), the lead lawyer for Proposition 8 supporters.
Filling out the lead roles as the plaintiffs, Curtis and Christine Lahti played lesbian couple Sandra Steir and Kristin Perry, while Matt Bomer and Glee's Matthew Morrison depicted gay couple Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo. Also joining the cast from Glee were Chris Colfer as witness Ryan Kendall and Jane Lynch as Maggie Gallagher, the outspoken columnist against same-sex marriage. (Yes, there was a twang of Sue Sylvester in her performance.)
Black, who earned an Oscar in 2009 for penning Milk, debuted his play in New York last September but changed some of the material from its time on Broadway to include more of the personal stories behind the case. Because it's the stories, as Black's play reminds us, that humanize the oft-polarizing issue of same-sex marriage. "If Prop 8 were undone and kids like me growing up in Bakersfield right now could never have to know what this felt like, their entire lives would be on a higher arc," Lahti said in delivering her character's final remarks. "They would live with a higher sense of themselves. It would improve the quality of their entire lives."
"And that's what I hope is the outcome of this case," Curtis finished for her. "I hope for something for Kris and I, but other people over time would benefit in an even more profound, life-changing way. That's what I hope for."
—Phillip B. Crook