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(From Left) Katherine Scholl, Dennis Delaney and Rebecca Vernooy read from the play 8, which chronicles marriage equality trials in California five years ago. The reading is Tuesday, Feb. 12 in the Elizabeth Evans Baker Theater. (via Linsi McCall)

'8' to channel marriage equality hearings

As Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act head to the Supreme Court this spring, the Athens community will have a chance to hear the details of the original trial.

Ohio University’s School of Theater, along with Brick Monkey Theater Ensemble and the LGBT Center, will present on Tuesday a reading of 8, a play by Dustin Lance Black, which chronicles the Proposition 8 hearings.

The show — which gained national attention when celebrities including Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Jamie Lee Curtis performed it in Los Angeles and New York City — follows the marriage equality hearings in California in 2008. 

Because the play is meant to be an honest depiction of the trial, Black used actual transcripts, commercials and testimonies from the trial without embellishments.

Readings of the play are now being produced nationwide thanks to producer Broadway Impacts’ free licensing agreement.

Director Shelley Delaney said she was contacted directly by Broadway Impact to produce the play because she directed a performance of ”The Laramie Project,” a play based around the case of Matthew Shepard, a homosexual student at the University of Wyoming who was kidnapped, savagely beaten and left to die, tied to a fence outside Laramie, Wyo.

“I think that I have a long history of — when it is needed — using theater to create a dialogue that is both pressing and important,” Delaney said.

The play is important because it creates a fair and meaningful dialogue to what the trials actually were, she said.

Delaney said she took some cues from the famous productions, creating a small courthouse set, playing actual Prop. 8 commercials on the screen behind the set and having the 25 actors dress in black and blue courtroom attire. She also was sure to cast members of Brick Monkey because many of the roles called for mature looking actors.

“I wanted to choose people who had a stake in what was going on and who truly had a passion for the material,” she said.

Because the show’s rights are free, Delaney had to organize a “talk back” session with the reading in accordance to a contract with Broadway Impact.

The panel of discussion leaders is comprised of different professors, activists and speakers including Patty Stokes, a professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Joshua and Steve Snyder-Hill, a married couple from Columbus, who are involved in the marriage equality movement.

“The discussion gives people a chance to talk about their reactions,” Stokes said. “I don’t see myself as lecturing because the play puts the ideas out there. This will be more of a facilitated discussion.”

Joshua and Steve, who have been involved in previous readings of 8, said they got involved with the reading at Ohio University after becoming friends with students after Steve, an Iraqi War veteran, was booed at a Republican presidential debate in response to a question regarding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in September 2011.

Steve said participating in different talk backs following readings of 8 have allowed him to hear both sides of the debate and helped others to make informed decisions.

“It’s a conversation and people who may be on the fence, and even people who know where they stand, get to see both perspectives,” he said. “It’s about fighting for something you believe in and listening to both sides because you don’t usually afford yourself the other opinion.”

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