8 (play)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Stage works
Original title: 8
Author: Dustin Lance Black
World Premiere: 19. September 2011
Location: New York City
Theater: Eugene O’Neill Theatre on Broadway
Genre: Documentary Theatre
Original language: english
Director: Joe Mantello[1]

8 is a play depicting excerpts from the Perry v. Schwarzenegger court case. In this case, Proposition 8 – a constitutional amendment that had banned same-sex marriages in the US state of California – was declared unconstitutional.

The play was written by Dustin Lance Black based on court transcripts after the United States Supreme Court ruled that video recordings of the court proceedings could not be broadcast.[2] It premiered on Broadway in New York City on September 19, 2011.


In May 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that the legal ban on same-sex marriage in place at the time violated the California Constitution.

In November 2008, a referendum was held on Proposition 8, introduced by opponents of same-sex marriage, which would enshrine a ban on same-sex marriage in the California Constitution. The referendum passed with a majority, and the constitutional amendment went into effect immediately. On May 26, 2009, the California Supreme Court ruled that this referendum was permissible under the California Constitution.[3]

Just four days earlier, on May 22, 2009, the newly formed organization American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) filed suit on behalf of two same-sex couples in federal district court in Northern California to determine whether Proposition 8 was consistent with the United States Constitution.[3][4] The couples were represented by attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson, who had opposed each other in Bush v. Gore, which decided the 2000 U.S. presidential election.[5][6]

Judge Vaughn Walker ruled on August 4, 2010 that Proposition 8 violates the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.[7] The decision was initially stayed during subsequent appeals (see Hollingsworth v. Perry) and became effective on June 28, 2013.[8]


The content of the play is based on the pleadings of the prosecution and the defense on the last day of the trial in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. At several points where the pleas refer to the testimony of a witness, excerpts from the examination of the witness are presented in a flashback. In between, the play also includes scenes away from the trial, including several conversations between plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandra Stier and their sons, two television commercials for Proposition 8, and an argument between Maggie Gallagher, who advocated for Proposition 8 as president of the National Organization for Marriage, and Evan Wolfson, who opposed Proposition 8 as founder of the organization Freedom to Marry.

Five prosecution witnesses appear in the play:
The first is Nancy Cott, professor of history at Harvard University.[9] Her testimony explains the history of the term “marriage” and its historical significance. The next witness is Ilan Mayer, Associate Professor of Social Medicine at Columbia University.[10] He testifies that same-sex partnerships are not considered equal to marriage and therefore create a stigma.

The third witness, Ryan Kendall, is homosexual and was forced by his parents to attend conversion therapy because of it. He reports the psychological effects and tells us that in his experience it does not succeed in changing sexual orientation as a result. Gregory Herek, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis..,[11] confirms in his testimony that a person’s sexual orientation is immutable and not freely chosen.

The fifth witness is Gary Segura, professor of political science at Stanford University,[12] who testified that the political influence of gays and lesbians is low. The plaintiffs sought to prove that homosexuals are a minority particularly vulnerable to discrimination, and that therefore a law taking away their rights must be subject to particularly strict scrutiny.[13]

Two witnesses close to the defense then appear. The first of them is William Tam, a co-sponsor of Proposition 8. He claimed before the referendum that after same-sex marriage, incest and polygamy would also be legalized. He testified in court that this had already happened in the Netherlands – he had read it “on the Internet.”
Finally, David Blankenhorn, founder and president of the think tank Institute for American Values, makes an appearance. He first testifies that it is important for children to have their biological parents also be their legal parents through marriage, and that introducing same-sex marriage would likely weaken the institution of marriage. Later, however, he also testifies that introducing same-sex marriage would likely improve the well-being of same-sex couples and their children.

After closing statements by counsel for both sides, the play ends with the four plaintiffs describing their hopes for the future.


8 was performed twice by AFER and Broadway Impact. The premiere took place on Broadway in New York City on September 19, 2011. A second performance on March 3, 2012 in Los Angeles was broadcast live on the Internet, and a recording of it was made available on YouTube.[14] Compared to the premiere, some courtroom scenes in it were deleted and replaced by conversations and narratives of the plaintiff couples, taken from their statements in court as well as from media appearances.[15]

In both performances, many roles were taken by well-known actors. The coverage focused mainly on the high-profile cast, but also praised humorous and moving scenes in the play itself.[16][17]

Both performances doubled as fundraising events for AFER, raising donations totaling more than $3 million.[15][18]

The characters appearing in the play, as well as the actors through whom they were played in the Broadway and Los Angeles performances, are listed in the following table.[19]

Name Roll played by (Broadway)[20] played by (LA)[21]
Vaughn Walker Judges Bob Balaban Brad Pitt[22]
Theodore Olson Attorneys for the prosecution John Lithgow Martin Sheen
David Boies Morgan Freeman George Clooney
Charles J. Cooper Defense attorney Bradley Whitford Kevin Bacon
? Clerk of the Court Kate Shindle Vanessa García
Kris Perry Plaintiff Christine Lahti
Sandy Stier Ellen Barkin Jamie Lee Curtis
Jeff Zarrillo Matt Bomer
Paul Katami Cheyenne Jackson Matthew Morrison
Spencer Perry Sons of the applicant Jay Armstrong Johnson Bridger Zadina
Elliot Perry Ben Rosenfeld Jansen Panettiere
Dr. Nancy Cott Witnesses for the prosecution Yeardley Smith
Dr. Gregory M. Herek K. Todd Freeman Rory O’Malley
Dr. Ilan Meyer Anthony Edwards Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Dr. Gary Segura Stephen Spinella James Pickens Jr.
Ryan Kendall Rory O’Malley Chris Colfer
David Blankenhorn Witnesses for the defence Rob Reiner John C. Reilly
William Tam Ken Leung George Takei
Evan Wolfson Founder of Freedom to Marry Larry Kramer Cleve Jones
Maggie Gallagher President of the National Organization for Marriage Jayne Houdyshell Jane Lynch
? TV journalist Campbell Brown

AFER and Broadway Impact make the play available for readings free of charge under certain conditions.[23] As of early 2012, more than 40 readings were scheduled in various US states.[24]

Web links

Individual references

  1. Bob Morris ‘Hey, You Look Familiar’. In: The New York Times, September 21, 2011, accessed August 27, 2014.
  2. Patrick Healy Illuminating California’s Proposition 8 Trial, Onstage. In: New York Times, July 17, 2011, accessed September 2, 2014.
  3. a b Chuleenan Svetvilas Challenging Prop. 8: The Hidden Story.(Memento of December 17, 2014 on the Internet Archive) In: California Lawyer, January 2010, accessed August 24, 2014.
  4. Complaint, Perry v. Schwarzenegger(PDF) American Foundation for Equal Rights. 22 May 2009. retrieved 11 November 2009.
  5. Jesse McKinley:Bush v. Gore Foes Join to Fight Gay Marriage Ban. in The New York Times, May 27, 2009 Retrieved November 11, 2009.
  6. Willie Brown:Bush-Gore legal pair push gay marriage suit. in San Francisco Chronicle, May 31, 2009. retrieved June 1, 2009.
  7. Vaughn Walker:Perry v. Schwarzenegger.(PDF; 351 kB) (No longer available online.) In: 704 F.Supp.2d 921 at940 (N.D. Cal. 2010). August 4, 2010, archived onOriginalMarch16,2013; retrieved August 24, 2014.
  8. Jennifer Medina Gay Couples Who Sued in California Are Married. New York Times, June 28, 2013, accessed August 24, 2014.
  9. Testimony of Nancy Cott according to verbatim transcript of 1st day of trial, p. 184. 11 January 2010, retrieved 2 September 2014.
  10. Testimony of Ilan Mayer according to the verbatim record of the 4th day of the trial, p. 809. 14 January 2010, retrieved 2 September 2014.
  11. Testimony of Gregory Herek according to verbatim transcript of 9th day of trial, p. 2019. 22 January 2010, retrieved 2 September 2014.
  12. Testimony of Gary Segura according to verbatim transcript of the 7th day of trial, p. 1524. 20 January 2010, retrieved 2 September 2014.
  13. In technical English, one speaks of strict scrutiny (literally translated “strict examination”), a German equivalent does not exist due to the deviating legal system. Cf. the article on strict scrutiny in the English Wikipedia.
  14. “8”: A Play about the Fight for Marriage Equality on YouTube. 3. March 2012, accessed August 24, 2014.
  15. a b David Ng ‘8,’ a play about Proposition 8, debuts March 3 in L.A. In: Los Angeles Times, November 19, 2011, accessed August 27, 2014.
  16. Los Angeles Times Hollywood embraces Dustin Lance Black’s Prop. 8 drama. 5. March 2012, accessed August 27, 2014.
  17. Michael Schulman Do-over. In: The New Yorker, October 3, 2011, accessed August 27, 2014.
  18. Adam Nagournay, Brooks Barnes Gay Marriage Effort Attracts a Novel Group of Donors. In: New York Times, March 23, 2012, accessed August 24, 2014.
  19. The Characters. American Foundation for Equal Rights. archived from Original january 11, 2016. retrieved March 19, 2012.
  20. Press release Full Casting for “8” Broadway Premiere Announced.(Memento of February 27, 2017 on the Internet Archive) September 15, 2011, retrieved August 25, 2014.
  21. Press release All-Star Cast for West Coast Premiere of Dustin Lance Black’s “8” Announced.(Memento of March 8, 2014 on the Internet Archive) January 18, 2012, retrieved August 25, 2014. (Brad Pitt is not yet mentioned there, as he only accepted on short notice – see separate itemization)
  22. ‘8’ L.A. premiere: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Martin Sheen, Jane Lynch star in play about same-sex marriage battleIn: Daily News/Associated Press, March 4, 2012. retrieved August 24, 2014.
  23. 8: Stage A Reading. Archived from Original february 27, 2017. retrieved August 27, 2014.
  24. Mark Kennedy:‘8,’ Dustin Lance Black Gay Marriage Play, Goes National During 2012. in The Huffington Post, January 17, 2012 Retrieved August 27, 2014.