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UNH Joins in Reading of Landmark Play on Marriage Equality

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Dustin Lance Black
Academy Award-winning writer Dustin Lance Black

For two nights only, members of the university community will present a reading of the play “8” based on trial transcripts from California’s 2010 court fight over Proposition 8, the initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage in the state. It has since been overturned.

Written by Academy Award winner Dustin Lance Black, “8” will be performed Feb. 7, at 7 p.m. in the MUB Strafford Room. Tickets are free but must be reserved through the MUB ticket office. Seating is limited. 

The UNH cast will perform a second reading of “8” Friday, Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Palace Theatre in Manchester. Tickets are $20 and can be reserved at www.palacetheatre.org.

The UNH production, directed by associate professor David Kaye, features a diverse cast made up of UNH faculty, students, staff and alumni.

“Here at UNH, we have been using theatre as a method of addressing social justice for many years,” Kaye said. “In 2004, we created a play on marriage equality to bring to area Rotary clubs. With this important issue once again coming to the state house floor, we were eager to join Broadway Impact to bring this equal rights play to our campus and the Palace Theatre in Manchester. It's a powerful script that reveals what is really at the heart of the issue.”

Tony Award-nominee Gavin Creel, co-founder of Broadway Impact, will be on campus to discuss the play. Prior to the reading, he will be at the UNH Museum of Art from 1 to 2 p.m. along with Kaye, who will discuss Creel’s Broadway musical career, and his involvement with Broadway Impact. This event is free and open to the public. Creel also will lead a talk after the reading.

“8” debuted on Broadway to much acclaim in September 2011. The play is slated for multi-city performances in 2012, including an all-star performance in Los Angeles featuring Academy Award-nominee George Clooney on March 3, 2012.

The UNH reading is being presented in partnership with the Department of Theatre and Dance, the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the UNH Alliance, the Discovery Program and the student organizations Mask and Dagger and WildActs: Theatre for Social Justice, with American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) and Broadway Impact.

“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, an AFER founding board member. “The goal of ‘8’ is to show the world that marriage equality is a basic constitutional right. The facts are on our side and truth always finds the light. AFER and Broadway Impact are doing all we can to help speed that process along.”

Throughout 2012, AFER and Broadway Impact will license “8” to schools and community organizations nationwide in order to spur action, dialogue and understanding.

The story for “8” is framed by the trial’s historic closing arguments in June 2010, but features the best arguments and witness testimony presented by both legal teams. Scenes include reenactments of many of the jaw-dropping moments of trial, such as the admission by the Proposition 8 supporters’ star witness David Blankenhorn that “we would be more American on the day we permitted same-sex marriage than we were on the day before.”

AFER prevailed in federal district court when Chief Judge Walker concluded that California had no rational basis or vested interest in denying gay and lesbian marriage licenses, and thus found Proposition 8 “unconstitutional” on August 4, 2010, based on the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  It is currently under appeal by the anti-marriage proponents and is being expedited through the court system at a relatively rapid pace.

Unfortunately, the American public was not given a chance to witness the historic trial because the proponents of Proposition 8 launched a number of desperate attempts to forever hide the trial videotapes.  Although the trial proceedings were open to the public, and all courtroom testimony and events were thoroughly documented, the trial video most vividly compares the weakness of the proponents’ arguments to the well-reasoned, valid and constitutionally-based arguments and evidence put forth by AFER’s renowned legal team, plaintiffs and expert witnesses.

The trial videotapes have been kept under seal due to a federal protective order, but after AFER attorneys made a strong case, Chief Judge Ware at the U.S. District Court agreed that the trial footage should and will be released to the public. The anti-marriage proponents immediately appealed Judge Ware’s decision, so the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments on December 8 regarding AFER’s motion to unseal the trial tapes. 

To reserve tickets, visit: www.unhmub.com/ticket. For information about the department’s 2012 season, visit www.unh.edu/theatre-dance