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  • '8' reading examines history of California measure

  • "8," by Dustin Lance Black, is a very unusual play with a very unusual history.
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    • If you go
      What: Reading of "8," by Dustin Lance Black
      When: 8 p.m. Sunday, May 18
      Where: Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave., Talent
      Admission: $10. Reservations strongly encouraged. Call 541-535-5250 ...
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      If you go
      What: Reading of "8," by Dustin Lance Black

      When: 8 p.m. Sunday, May 18

      Where: Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave., Talent

      Admission: $10. Reservations strongly encouraged. Call 541-535-5250 or buy tickets online at www.CamelotTheatre.org
  • "8," by Dustin Lance Black, is a very unusual play with a very unusual history.
    "8" chronicles the trial in the case of "Perry v. Schwarzenegger," the lawsuit that successfully overturned California's Proposition 8, the voter initiative that prohibited marriage for gay and lesbian couples. The work is based on the actual words of the official trial transcript.
    Camelot Theatre Company in Talent will present a one-night-only reading of "8" at 8 p.m. Sunday, May 18.
    The reading will offer audience members a chance to hear both sides of the argument and to discuss the issues in a post-performance talk-back with the cast.
    "Camelot has a history of doing plays that have a political history," says Camelot Artistic Director Livia Genise. "Same-sex marriage is, to many, a very divisive issue. By presenting this play, we want to create a context for a conversation."
    "8" is directed by Genise and features a cast of 22, including Rebecca K. Campbell, Brian Fraser, Jeff Golden, Paul R. Jones, David King-Gabriel, Barbara Rains, Roy Von Rains Jr. and Tyler Ward. Golden will moderate the post-performance discussion.
    Tickets for the reading are $10 and reservations are recommended. There is a box office fee of $4 for all orders. Tickets can be purchased in person, by phone at 541-535-5250 or online at www.CamelotTheatre.org. The theater is at the corner of Talent Avenue and Main Street and the box office is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and one hour before performances.
    Following the passage of California's Proposition 8 in 2008, the American Foundation for Equal Rights filed a lawsuit, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, in federal court on behalf of two gay couples challenging Proposition 8's constitutionality.
    California's attorney general refused to defend the suit on the grounds that the initiative violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The official proponent of Proposition 8, ProtectMarriage.com, led by then-state Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, was then allowed to assume the defense.
    The defense filed a special petition to the U.S. Supreme Court two days before the trial was to begin seeking to block the planned live broadcast of the proceedings. The court ruled 5-4 in an unsigned opinion in favor of blocking the broadcast.
    Dustin Lance Black, an Academy Award winner for his screenplays of "Milk" and "J. Edgar," wrote "8" in response to the ruling, using the trial transcripts, first-hand observations of the courtroom and interviews with the two plaintiff couples and their families.
    "People need to witness what happened during the Proposition 8 trial, if for no other reason than to see inequality and discrimination unequivocally rejected in a court of law where truth and facts matter," Black, a founding AFER board member, says on AFER's website.
    "The goal of '8' is to show the world that marriage equality is a basic constitutional right," Black says. "The facts are on our side and truth always finds the light."
    "8" opened on Broadway on Sept. 19, 2011, at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. The West Coast premiere was March 3, 2012, at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles. The cast for the L.A. benefit reading included Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Martin Sheen, Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Bacon and was directed by Rob Reiner.
    AFER and Broadway Impact, a nonprofit organization of theater artists and fans in support of marriage equality, are licensing "8" to colleges and community theaters for free.
    Oregon recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states but does not allow them to be performed within Oregon. A ballot initiative passed in 2004 amended Oregon's constitution, restricting marriages held in Oregon to be between a man and a woman. An initiative on the November 2014 ballot seeks to replace that amendment with wording granting all persons the right to marry without reference to gender.
    Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.
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