Columbia Basin College will kick off its 2012-13 theater season with the controversial play reading 8.
The play is based on the Proposition 8 civil trial Perry v. Schwarzenegger over same-sex marriage in California.
The play was written by Dustin Lance Black, who also wrote the Academy Award-winning screenplay for the movie Milk, which chronicles the 1978 murder of San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, who was openly gay.
Black, an ardent supporter of gay rights, said in an interview with the New York Times that he was disappointed when the U.S. Supreme Court did not allow the Proposition 8 trial to be broadcast, and wrote the play with the intent to bring attention to the arguments in the famous trial. The 90-minute play is almost entirely distilled from verbatim statements from the trial transcript and from Black's experience derived from watching the trial and talking to people on both sides of the argument.
Ginny Quinley, who directs and produces 8, said a former student brought the play to her attention.
"Part of the purpose of our productions is education," she said. Plus, the play makes you think.
The play uses minimal sets in a staged reading performed with scripts in hand. The lighting is wonderfully stark and throws the faces of the debaters, and their words, alternately into shadow and glaring light. And although the sets are sparse, flat-out emotion and passion lie in the words of the actors.
A perfectly coifed blond version of Maggie Gallagher, the National Organization for Marriage representative at the trial, is superbly played by Alisha Reed. She makes a passionate but ultimately unconvincing case that same-sex marriage, as endorsed by the state, infringes on religious freedom and would result in inappropriate sexual education of children in the California education system.
The play bounces between the trial and the everyday lives of the gay and lesbian plaintiffs. The legal arguments in the play are well-presented and at times fascinating, and the dramas going on in the plaintiffs' families are captivating. That's especially true in the family of two lesbian mothers, played by Katrina Carlson and Wendy Veysey, who have twin teenage boys, played by Matthew Reinemann and Alex Veysey.
As the court argues abstractly about the effect of same-sex marriage on children, the actual children of such a marriage talk with their moms about the everyday things that families talk about -- soccer practice and studying for tomorrow's test. This dialog underscores the normality of their lives, even as the mothers wonder aloud whether they've done the right thing and why they can't just live the ordinary moments of their existence like any other person.
The action onstage is interspersed with screenings of the same political ads that successfully convinced 7 million voters to pass the California referendum in 2008.
A panel discussion after each of the two performances will continue the conversation in real time. Other cast members include Korry Watkins, Jim Wutzke, Kevin Nettleton, Bryan Foley and Ted Miller.
The play will be performed as a staged reading at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19-20 in the CBC theater on the Pasco campus.
Admission is free, but donations are welcome, and will be donated to Washington United for Marriage. For more information, call the Performing Arts Center office at 542-5531.
*Nancy Welliver is a longtime supporter of the arts. She has worked at Hanford as an engineer and is a member of the Camerata Musica organization.