George Takei joined an all-star cast Saturday at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles for the West Coast premiere of “8,” a play chronicling the historic trial in the federal constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.
In an interview with OnTheRedCarpet.com, Takei compared the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans with current campaigns against gay marriage, calling both “irrational, prejudicial discrimination written into law.” He likened measures like Prop 8 to “legalistic barbed-wire fences keeping the LGBT community from equality.”
Takei — best known for “Star Trek” and most recently seen on “The Celebrity Apprentice” — married long-time partner Brad Altman after a court legalized same-sex marriage in California and before Prop 8 was passed, so their union is still legally binding, but he said he won’t rest until full equality is achieved for everyone.
Written by Academy Award-winning screenwriter and American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) founding board member Dustin Lance Black, “8” featured Kevin Bacon, Matt Bomer, George Clooney, Chris Colfer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Christine Lahti, Jane Lynch, Matthew Morrison, Brad Pitt, John C. Reilly, Martin Sheen and Yeardley Smith, among others. Rob Reiner directed.
The one-night-only fundraising event for AFER, co-presented by Broadway Impact, was viewed live on YouTube, and the video is available at www.afer.org/live until Saturday, March 11.
“8” is an account of the Federal District Court trial in Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now Perry v. Brown), the case filed by AFER to overturn Proposition 8.
Black, who penned the acclaimed feature films “Milk” and “J. Edgar,” 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.
“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. “Try as they might, the anti-marriage proponents of Proposition 8 cannot hide their discriminatory arguments from the American people. Until every citizen can equally enjoy the freedom to marry, AFER will continue to fight in the courts of law and the court of public opinion — and we will win.”
“8” starred Pitt, a late addition to the cast, as Judge Vaughn Walker; Clooney and Sheen as plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel David Boies and Theodore B. Olson; Lahti and Curtis as plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, a lesbian couple together for 11 years and the parents of four boys; Morrison and Bomer as plaintiffs Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, a gay couple together over 10 years.
Lynch played prominent opponent of marriage equality Maggie Gallagher, co-founder and former chairman of the National Organization for Marriage. Reilly played David Blankenhorn, founder and president of the Institute for American Values.
Takei played a Prop 8 defense witness who backed out of his testimony after a disastrous deposition with Boies. According to Gayapolis.com, Takei got one of the best laughs of the night.
The story for “8” is framed by the trial’s historic closing arguments in June 2010, and features the best arguments and testimony from both sides. Scenes include flashbacks to some of the more jaw-dropping moments of trial, such as an admission by the Prop 8 supporters’ star witness, Blankenhorn, that “we would be more American on the day we permitted same-sex marriage than we were on the day before.”
“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.”
“8” had its much-heralded Broadway world premiere on Sept. 19, 2011, at the sold-out Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New York City. The production brought in over $1 million to support AFER’s efforts to achieve full federal marriage equality.
Throughout 2012, AFER and Broadway Impact are licensing “8” for free to colleges and community theaters nationwide in order to spur action, dialogue and understanding. Most productions will be followed by a talkback where cast and audience members can discuss the issues presented in the trial.
Proposition 8 was struck down by the Federal District Court in August 2010. That decision was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by proponents of Proposition 8. AFER’s legal team was at the Ninth Circuit in December 2011 for a hearing to urge that court to unseal the trial video. The public was not given a chance to witness the historic trial because the proponents launched an attempt to hide the video.
A ruling on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the release of the trial video is expected soon. The Perry case is widely anticipated to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I was lucky enough to watch the initial closing arguments of Perry v. Schwarzenegger in San Francisco,” said Broadway Impact co-founder Rory O’Malley, a Tony Award nominee for “The Book of Mormon.” “We knew then and there that audiences needed to see and hear this story live, as we had done. ‘8’ builds on a successful tradition of documentary theatre — plays like ‘The Laramie Project’ and ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ which inspire us with their combination of art and activism. We are thrilled to partner with AFER to bring this story to a national audience.”