A few nights ago, while scrolling my Twitter feed, I noticed a few mentions of a live-streaming play called “8.” Just in time I clicked on a link from one of the actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s tweets and tuned in. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard that this was happening before! A live-streamed event by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, this play was directed by Rob Reiner and written by “Milk” screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. If that’s not impressive, note the all-star cast: TV favorites like Jane Lynch, Ferguson, and George Takei, as well as movie greats like Jamie Lee Curtis, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney. It also featured Broadway performer Rory O’Malley, whom I just saw play a closeted gay Mormon in “Book of Mormon” and basically steal the whole show. What an unreal combination of talented people, all coming together to support LGBT rights! But the fact that they have such star power wasn’t even as inspiring as the heartfelt words of the trial portrayed in the play.
This play came directly from transcripts of the actual 2010 trial on Proposition 8, an amendment to the California constitution that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, and that passed during the 2008 elections. Some of the arguments people made are truly outrageous, but it’s comforting to see how hard the lawyers fought and how they exposed the prejudices on trial. For example, when John C. Reilly’s character, a so-called marriage expert, is put up on the stand, he spouts various scholars’ information without thinking it through. He says that marriage is for procreation purposes only, and that gay marriage will hurt children, among many other winning bullshit arguments. It’s really powerful that the playwright aligns the opposing arguments with stories of two real gay and lesbian couples.
I’d heard most of the arguments for Prop 8 before, so I wasn’t shocked to hear them rehashed. One example of a ridiculous argument, from lawyer Charles Cooper, was that he thought gays and lesbians having children was “reckless” and “irresponsible.” What stood out to me the most in the entire play was a moving and heartfelt monologue in response to that charge by Christine Lahti, playing Kris Perry, one half of one of the featured lesbian couples. She lets the audience hear the entire process of her decision-making regarding having children with her partner of 7 years, and how important it is to both of them. Then she speaks with great conviction to her sons, saying, “But you were not accidents. You were not irresponsible. You two are about the most responsible, important, and meaningful things I will ever do in my entire life…and don’t you ever let anyone ever make you feel any different, you got it?” It’s infuriating that anyone could ever think otherwise of gay and lesbian parents, especially when it’s impossible for them to accidentally have children. There was clearly so much love and responsibility put into the couple’s decision.
I’ve always believed that theater can be transformative. Even though this was a recorded play made for the internet, the feeling of live theater was still there. “8” takes the Prop 8 trial and the struggle for LGBT rights and makes them human and real. Please watch the play and tell others about it. As Ferguson’s character, an expert on discrimination and stigma, says about Prop 8, “it sends a message that gay relationships are not to be respected. That they are of secondary value, if any value at all. That they are certainly not equal to heterosexuals…It also sends a message about the values of the state, and in this case, the constitution itself.” This is true of Prop 8, but also true of every state that denies basic equal rights to gay and lesbian couples.
Casey Krosser completed her BA from Ithaca College this past May. She has since been on the job hunt while working at a bookstore. Casey recently held an editorial internship with BUST magazine, where she also contributed to their blog. She currently lives in Livingston, NJ, and is in the process of moving to the DC area.