Were using the arts to portray a justice issue, said Carol McKinley, a community minister affiliated with the Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation and the coordinator of Washington State Unitarian Universalist Voices for Justice. I think thats a great way to reach people.
The play, being performed this weekend only, is 8, about a trial challenging Californias Proposition 8. Its a timely production; in November, Washington voters will be deciding whether to allow marriage for gay men and lesbians here.
The 90-minute play is based on court transcripts and interviews with people involved with the case, and presents arguments on both sides of the issue as well as a view into the lives of the families involved in the case.
This is a factual play, said Ned Hayes, who is producing the show and has a small role as William Tam, a witness for the defense. All of the actors are portraying real historical figures. Its a story straight out of the headlines. Its fascinating to do history come to life.
It does give you both sides of the question, said McKinley, who came up with the idea to do a reading here as part of her social justice work.
Those of us who support it look at marriage equality as expanding the realm of love, expanding inclusiveness in our world. Others see civil marriage as somehow redefining marriage and allowing what they call in the play special rights rather than equal rights.
McKinley also has a personal stake in the issue. She had a commitment ceremony with longtime partner Barbara Gibson in 2001, and the couple was among the first to register as domestic partners in 2007.
Marriage is important to us, she said. We do have recognition by the state as registered domestic partners, but having separate categories is inherently unequal, just as separate but equal schools were unequal inherently.
Proponents of Californias Proposition 8 unsuccessfully sought to block the release of video from the trial after the judge ruled against them. Its interesting to be in the business of producing a great drama and also being able to tell the truth about what happened, Hayes said.
Staged readings are being produced all over the country as part of efforts to raise awareness of the issues involved in same-sex marriage. Rights to produce a reading are available free to nonprofit organizations working for marriage equality through the American Foundation for Equal Rights and Broadway Impact.
The Olympia production will be at a high-level for a reading, Hayes said. The actors all have access to the script, but many of them are off-script or almost off-script because they wanted to bring their best work to the stage.
The Los Angeles production, a one-night-only event in March, featured George Clooney, Jamie Lee Curtis, Martin Sheen and Brad Pitt. Rob Reiner directed. The reading can be seen at www.8theplay.com.
The Olympia cast, directed by Brian Tyrrell, is a local theatrical whos who.
Whats amazing about this show is every theater in town is represented, Hayes said. Somebody from every theater showed up.
Brian Hatcher worked to fit this into his schedule, despite his role in Harlequins Richard III, opening Thursday, and Samantha Chandler took time out from work on Olympia Family Theaters Go, Dog, Go, opening Oct. 12.
Among the other big names in the cast are Clarke Hallum, the Olympia youth who originated the role of Ralphie in 5th Avenue Theatres A Christmas Story in Seattle, and also played the part in Chicago, and Gwen Haw, most recently seen in the title role of Hello, Dolly last spring at Capital Playhouse.
Both of them have minor roles here, Hayes said. They just wanted to be part of it.