Newsmakers: ’8′ debuts in ToledoWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
More than 500 people attended the University of Toledo reading of “8,” a play about the fight for marriage equality in California.
The Oct. 7 reading at UT’s Doermann Theatre featured many community members and was directed by Jennifer Rockwood, assistant dean in the College of Innovative Learning at the University of Toledo. Rockwood received funding for the show from the President’s Lecture Series on Diversity.
The play follows Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now Perry v. Brown) filed by the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) in opposition to Proposition 8, a 2008 amendment that overturned a California Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples marital rights.
“We’re very close to their making a new decision or it moving forward. So this whole year’s been a good year to get the word out. And, of course, I have a lot of friends who are gay and I am very sympathetic to the idea that marriage should be equal,” Rockwood said.
“8” premiered in New York City on Sept. 19, 2011, as a benefit for AFER. The play comes from Broadway Impact, an organization that promotes marriage equality through theater. The group’s founders, Rory O’Malley, Gavin Creel and Jenny Kanelos, were inspired after reading Perry transcripts. (The court video was not made public.)
“Our minds were blown with how amazing this case was. Our side had so much. We had witnesses and expert after expert,” Kanelos said. The group decided to approach AFER and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who penned the films “Milk” and “J. Edgar,” about writing a play.
“The court stuff is all actual transcript. Not a word of it has been altered,” Kanelos said of Black’s script.
Black also based his script on interviews he conducted with the families involved in the case.
“People are really relating to that. They’re seeing gay families are as normal as straight families,” Kanelos said.
“8” received attention when a Los Angeles production, which included famous actors, was put online. The day after it hit the Web, Broadway Impact, which licenses the show, had 150 requests from theaters around the country.
Rockwood had read about “8” on the Internet before deciding to stage her own show.
She said she got good responses from the reading’s attendees and hopes to put the UT version of “8” on YouTube.
“It was great collaboration with faculty, local actors and community members,” she said, adding that a talk-back panel after the reading was also well-attended.