The fight to legalize same-sex marriage takes center stage Tuesday, one day after an anticipated Supreme Court ruling brought on by that battle.
A cast of local celebrities, which includes business owners, actors and politicians, will read "8," a play based on the legal battle surrounding Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban. Written by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black ("Milk," "J. Edgar"), the play has had hundreds of readings nationwide at universities, community theaters and even on Broadway.
Tucson's rendition is produced by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred DuVal, who was introduced to the play when it ran in Phoenix in May.
DuVal credits the immediacy of the play's central issues for its "thunderous" audience response: the publicity and public opposition surrounding the case has snowballed since California voters approved the legislation in 2008.
DuVal says opinions toward same-sex marriage mimic sentiments of the Vietnam War - protests began slowly in the mid-1960s and had exploded by the end of the decade.
"We hit a point where a majority of Americans knew somebody who had lost their life in Vietnam," he says. "It dramatically changed attitudes. I think we are now to a point where a majority of Americans know and accept neighbors or friends in a gay relationship. … Familiarity has created critical mass."
Given the timing of the reading, "8" should be a major draw for gay marriage supporters who have been following the case since 2010, says DuVal. A post-show panel will guide the inevitable discussion, he adds. The panel is made up of University of Arizona law professor Barbara Atwood, Phoenix attorney David Horowitz and Equality Arizona President Rebecca Wininger.
Theater as an instrument for social change is hardly a new concept, but the format of the play, which permits reading directly from the script due to limited rehearsals and an exceptionally busy cast, is what DuVal says is special about "8."
"This approach lends itself to a communitywide conversation that a traveling cast" doesn't, he adds. "What we really do want to do is not just provide people with a special evening of powerful drama, but also stimulate timely discussion about this topic."
Community members were quick to accept Duval's casting invitations. Among the more than 20 participating are journalist Martha Vazquez, Arizona Theatre Company artistic director David Ira Goldstein, restauranteur Janos Wilder, and former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods.
"I wanted to get people beyond the public sphere, but who care about public issues," DuVal says.
Ticket proceeds from "8" will benefit the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Wingspan, Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, Alliance Fund and the UA Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ).
Though the play is largely based on trial transcripts, Woods, who will reprise his Phoenix role as litigator Ted Olson, says the audience shouldn't expect a yawn-inducing history lesson.
"People that are thinking about going need to understand that this is not a lecture or a dry, esoteric experience," Woods says. "It's a theatrical experience, and it's a lot of fun."
If You Go
• What: The Arizona Theatre Company's "8"
• By: Dustin Lance Black.
• Director: Matthew Wiener.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
• Where: Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave.
• Tickets: $20, $45 and $95 (VIP, includes post-performance reception with cast).
• Running time: 90-plus minutes.
• Reservations, information: arizonatheatre.org or 622-2823.
• Cast: Includes Jonathan Rothschild, Steve Kozachik, Karin Uhlich, Paula Aboud, Martha Vazquez, Grant Woods and David Fitzsimmons.
Kate Newton is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org