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‘8 the Play’ brings battle over Prop 8 to life

Theatre Writer

Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 13:01



Ken Pierce, of Equality Action Now, waves a rainbow flag outside the James R. Browning Courthouse where the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, Calif., listens to arguments regarding the latest court decision to overturn Proposition 8, a law forbidding gay marriage in California.

With a 52 percent majority, the residents of California voted yes on Proposition 8 in 2008. Prop 8 forbade same-sex couples from marrying, but it was quickly challenged in court.

UNI Student Theatre Association’s production of “8 The Play” depicted the process of two California couples working to overturn the landmark measure.

    In “8 The Play,” a staged reading by Dustin Lance Black, proceedings of the trial to overturn Proposition 8 are brought to light.

    Derived from court transcripts, observations and interviews, “8 The Play” offers a behind-the-scenes look at those involved in the trial.

    “I was also attracted to the idea of presenting both sides of the case and allowing the audience to decide for themselves what their stance would be,” Joseph Schoborg, sophomore theatre major and director of the UNISTA performance, said.

    The character Paul Katami (a real-life plaintiff in the trial, played by freshman theatre major Mic Evans) described how the passing of Prop 8 made him feel like a second-class citizen, maybe even third-class.

    “‘Husband’ is definitive,” Katami explained in the script.

    Katami, his partner Jeff Zarrillo and another committed couple, Kris Perry and Sandra Steir, filed a lawsuit for equal recognition, protection and benefits under the law in the state of California. Perry v. Schwarzenegger went to the California courts in 2010.

    The audience watched as the players of the case stammered and yelled, exhibiting visceral passion as their characters fought for and against Proposition 8.

    “We got a small look into the lives of some of those people: their worries, their doubts, their tragedies, their triumphs,” Michaela Oehler, a freshman theatre major at UNI, said. “We were all a part of that. We got to share their pain and feel their triumph.”

    The room was dead silent as lawyers delivered their closing arguments.

    “We put fear and prejudice on trial,” Daisy Boies, played by sophomore theatre major  Madeline Achen, announced.

    The audience roared as a seemingly drunk (but completely sober) witness mumbled and stumbled during his cross-examination.

    People cringed as Maggie Gallagher, founder of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, shouted her opinion to whomever would hear it.

“The majority of people believe it (same-sex marriage) is an American wrong,” screamed Gallagher, played by Alex Stickels, a freshman theatre major.

    Because of the sparse set and unassuming clothing, the actors had to carry the entire weight of the message through their acting alone.

    It was a subtle performance set in a simple space with the focus falling on the message and the portrayal of each character.

    Actors were clad in black, white and gray clothing and sat in simple chairs as though in a courtroom setting.

    There were no props or costumes behind which to hide.

    “I think that the minimalistic set was perfect because it shifted the focus to the issue, rather than distractions with costumes or the environment,” Schoborg said.

    The small, dark space put the performers within reach of the audience, transporting the viewers directly into the California courtroom.

     In a talkback after the Saturday night show, David Pope, a junior political communication major and president of UNI Proud, described the process as seeing Shakespeare versus reading Shakespeare.

    Hallie Cook, a junior English education major, commented, “It gave the whole Proposition 8 story so much more depth than what was portrayed in the news coverage of the event.” 
    “My hope for having presented the show is that someone left reconsidering their ideals against marriage equality,” Schoborg said. “Even if they came to the conclusion that they are still against it, at least they left thinking about why they feel that way.”


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