Stage setting for "8" (Photo from the American Foundation for Equal Rights)
The American Foundation for Equal Rights announced Wednesday that human rights activist and Academy Award-winning actor George Clooney is joining the cast for the West Coast premier of Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black's "8." The play is about the historic trial in AFER's federal constitutional challenge to Prop 8, the California initiative passed by voters in 2008 that stripped the right to marry from same sex couples. Prop 8 was ruled unconstitutional in August 2010 by US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker and is now before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is expected to rule any day.
The play, taken from the District Court trial transcripts, courtroom observations and interviews with the two couples who are plaintiffs in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, will be directed by noted actor/director and AFER Founding Board Member Rob Reiner.
"8" premiered to a sold-out audience and much acclaim last Sept. 19 at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York City. The West Coast premier will be a one-night only performance at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 3, 2012. It's a fundraiser for AFER, which is expected to follow the California case through to the US Supreme Court, if necessary, and is committed to strategically pursuing the legal battle until same sex couples win the freedom to marry. Prominent lead attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies have both said they consider the Perry case to be one of the most important cases of their distinguished careers.
Clooney, whom gay audiences have been following since his early debut-ish stint on The Golden Girls, is a serious human rights activist, which is sometimes reflected in his choice of films. In 2005, Clooney starred as a Middle East CIA agent in the oil-politics film Syriana, for which he won the Oscar. That same year, he directed, produced, and starred in Good Night, and Good Luck., a brilliant film about the journalistic battles between 1950s CBS News journalist Edward R. Murrow and CBS and "Commie" and "queer" witch hunter Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Clooney was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for that one.
But Clooney is doesn't just do fiction.He and his journalist father Nick Clooney went to the Sudan to see the war-torn
George Clooney (Photo from Wikipedia)
Darfur region for themselves. Out of that came the 2007 documentary "Sand and Sorrow." In January 2008, he was designated as a United Nations Messenger of Peace. And while he might be well-known internationally for the wise-cracking Ocean series, he has also shown up repeatedly to help raise money for the victims of 9/11, the 2004 Tsunami, and last year's earthquake in Haiti.
Clooney will appear in "8" six days after the 84th Academy Awards on Dec. 26, for which he is nominated for Best Actor in The Descendants. While the media will no doubt turn out for the "8" premier in droves, LGBTs can at least expect Clooney to give great sound bites to reach an audience otherwise oblivious to the pain of discrimination.
"It is astonishing that gay and lesbian Americans are still treated as second-class citizens," Clooney said in an AFER press release. "I am confident that, very soon, the laws of this nation will reflect the basic truth that gay and lesbian people - like all human beings - are born equal in dignity and rights."
"This play will continue to show Americans - one by one - that prejudice and fear cannot stand up to truth and justice," said AFER Board President Chad Griffin. "Our Constitution neither knows nor tolerates the treatment of gays and lesbians as second-class citizens. In its search for greater freedom, this generation has come to see that laws like Proposition 8 serve only to oppress."
"8" serves another purpose, as well - it illustrates the creative lengths to which LGBTs must go to provide transparency to the historic public trial and underscores the absurdity of the Prop 8 proponents' trumped up complaint of victimhood, to which the judicial system has too often acceded. Last Thursday, Dec. 8, AFER went before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to urge the court to release the trial video. This was an appeal of the Sept. 19 decision by U.S. District Chief Judge James Ware who wrote that, "Transparency is pivotal to public perception of the judiciary's legitimacy and independence." (See all briefs on the issue here.)
"The video recording of the trial truly and accurately shows the powerful evidence we submitted showing that Proposition 8 flatly violates the Constitution," said Olson after the oral arguments. "Proponents have offered no legitimate or compelling justification for keeping the trial videotape concealed from the public. We are anxious for the American people to see the evidence and testimony the district court had before it."
"People need to witness what happened in 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," said Black. "I've built my career around exposing and uncovering 'the real story.' The goal of '8' is to show the world that marriage equality is a basic constitutional right and that those who would deny this basic freedom from loving, committed couples have only vitriol and baseless hyperbole to fall back on. The facts are on our side and truth always finds the light. We are doing all we can to help speed that process along."
AFER also says in their press release that in addition to its Broadway and Los Angeles productions, "AFER and Broadway Impact are licensing "8" to colleges and community theatres nationwide in order to spur action, dialogue and understanding. AFER and Broadway Impact are helping produce these staged readings across the country with a full slate set for 2012."
On a political note – these productions will be staged at the same time the California public will be hearing about the California FAIR Education Act and the effort by the Religious Right to repeal it on a proposed 2012 ballot initiative.
(Crossposted at LGBT POV)