Category: Proposition 8

Hollywood embraces Dustin Lance Black's Prop. 8 drama

March 5, 2012 |  5:00 am


 Celebrity and social justice joined hands Saturday night at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre for a star-studded benefit reading of “8,” Dustin Lance Black’s documentary play on the Federal District Court trial to overturn Proposition 8, the controversial ballot initiative that took away the right of same-sex couples in California to marry.

While this straightforward drama assembled from court testimony and interviews may not be one for the ages, the sheer wattage of Hollywood luminaries that turned out to support the evening made for a powerful and indeed often moving spectacle.

The glittery event, presented by the American Foundation for Equal Rights and Broadway Impact, featured A-listers Brad Pitt as Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker and George Clooney as David Boies, the attorney representing, with Theodore B. Olson (a fiery Martin Sheen), the two couples who brought the suit to overturn the ban.

Continue reading »

Prop. 8 play reading in L.A. still on following court ruling

February 7, 2012 | 11:53 am

ClooneyThe planned L.A. reading of the play "8," featuring George Clooney, Matthew Morrison and others, will take place as scheduled on March 3, following Tuesday's ruling by a U.S. appeals court declaring California's ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.

"8," by Dustin Lance Black, will have a one-night staged reading at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. The cast also includes Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Matt Bomer, Christine Lahti, Jamie Lee Curtis, George Takei, Yeardley Smith, Campbell Brown, Rory O'Malley and Cleve Jones.

The reading, which will be directed by Rob Reiner, will serve as a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, a group launched by Black, Reiner and others to fight Prop. 8, the controversial California ballot measure that bans same-sex marriage in the state.

PHOTOS: Hollywood celebrates Prop. 8 ruling

The court ruling on Tuesday doesn't mean the fight over Prop. 8 is over. Supporters of the ban can appeal the decision to a larger panel of the 9th Circuit court or take it directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A spokeswoman for the American Foundation for Equal Rights confirmed Tuesday that the L.A. premiere of "8" will take place as scheduled. She said that the money raised from the reading will be used to fund the group's work "in securing full federal marriage equality."

"8" is based on court transcripts and interviews surrounding the 2010 federal court case Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, which sought to overturn Prop. 8.


George Clooney joins L.A. cast of Prop. 8 play

'8,' a play about Proposition 8, debuts March 3 in L.A.

Matthew Morrison, Jesse Tyler Ferguson join '8' reading

-- David Ng

Photo: George Clooney. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press

Nathan Lane, Octavia Spencer, Dustin Lance Black talk prejudice

January 25, 2012 |  5:14 pm

Dustin Lance Black is good at telling other people’s stories. The Oscar-winner penned the scripts for “Milk” and "J. Edgar," as well as "8,” an upcoming play that dramatizes the Prop 8 legal battle.

The screenwriter will share a story from his own life as part of “A More Perfect Union: Stories of Prejudice and Power” Feb. 15 at the Pacific Design Center. Black and four other storytellers, including Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer, will tell a 10-minute true tale about discrimination turned self-discovery at the invite-only event, which also will feature host Nathan Lane and a performance by John Legend.

The event is part of the USA Network's Characters Unite campaign, which aims to combat prejudice through live storytelling events and public service announcements and was created in partnership with the Moth, a nonprofit storytelling organization.


George Clooney joins L.A. cast of Prop. 8 play

Oscars 2012: Nods for 'The Help's' Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain

-- Jamie Wetherbe

Photo: Dustin Lance Black. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associate Press

Matthew Morrison, Jesse Tyler Ferguson join '8' reading

January 17, 2012 |  8:03 pm


Convincing major actors to commit to a theater project in Los Angeles isn't always the easiest sell. But "8," the play by Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, is proving to be the exception to the rule, with a cast that will feature George Clooney and a host of television stars including Matthew Morrison of "Glee" and Jesse Tyler Ferguson of "Modern Family."

"8," which will have a one-night reading at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on March 3, deals with the 2010 federal court case Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, which sought to overturn Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage in California. The performance will serve as a benefit for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the nonprofit group that brought the case to court.

The play reading, which is expected to raise $2 million, also shines a light on the fundraising needs of an organization that is waging an expensive and ongoing court battle. The judge in the case ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, but the decision has been appealed.

Assembling the cast was the work of Black, who is a founding board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and Rob Reiner, another board member who will also direct the reading.  Clooney received a call directly from Reiner asking him to participate, according to the organization. The actor will play David Boies, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case.

Morrison, who plays Will Schuester on "Glee," said in an interview that he had been working with Black on a separate screen project when the writer asked him to join the reading of "8."

Continue reading »

George Clooney joins L.A. cast of Prop. 8 play

December 14, 2011 |  5:00 am


George Clooney is throwing his considerable star power behind the fight against Prop. 8 by signing on to appear in a reading of the  play "8" in Los Angeles. The play, by Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, is scheduled to have a staged reading at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on March 3.

The play "8" is based on research and transcripts from Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the 2010 federal court battle that dealt with the legality of Prop. 8, the controversial ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage in California. The judge in the case ruled that Prop. 8 was unconstitutional, but the decision has been appealed.

The reading of "8" will serve as a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, an advocacy organization that has fought to overturn the initiative. Clooney is the first actor to be announced for the L.A. reading.

A spokesman for Clooney said the actor was traveling in Australia this week and was unavailable for comment. But in a release sent by the foundation, Clooney said: "It is astonishing that gay and lesbian Americans are still treated as second-class citizens. I am confident that, very soon, the laws of this nation will reflect the basic truth that gay and lesbian people -- like all human beings -- are born equal in dignity and rights."

Continue reading »

The Spotlight: Brian Shnipper of 'Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays’

May 18, 2011 | 11:30 am

When California voters banned gay marriage in 2008, Brian Shnipper didn’t take to the streets in protest; he called his playwright friends. It was the beginning of what would become “Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays,” a collection of nine one-act plays by writers such as Neil LaBute, Paul Rudnick and Wendy MacLeod. Two-and-a-half years and a couple of benefit performances later, the show, directed by Shnipper, is running at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and with a rotating cast of celebrity performers.

When you first asked these playwrights to do this, did you give them any guidelines?

The only thing I told them was that I didn’t need 10 love letters to gay marriage.

Some of the plays were written by straight, married-with-children playwrights. Were you surprised by their insights?

In terms of somebody like Neil LaBute, whose characters tend to be misogynistic and definitely come from a heterosexual world, you don’t think he’s going to write with such tenderness and such beauty about these two men who love each other as much as they do.

Do you have a favorite?

I love all my babies. What’s really great about the evening is that there’s no clunker.

Do you think the people who are seeing this show aren’t necessarily the people who need to be seeing this show?

This is the first time it’s been done in a theater that you could consider preaching to the choir. But now that we’re open and we’re getting amazing [reviews], we can reach out to a wider audience … [We’re hoping to go] to regional theaters, to Kansas, Mississippi, to universities, to places where people need to hear this.

Is this social activism on a stage?

Yes it is. But I try to make it as personal as possible, because I don’t think you reach people through politics; you reach people through the personal. I really set out to create an evening that — sorry to be cliché — made people laugh, made people cry, made people think, because that’s how you change people’s ideas.


Theater review: 'Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays" at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center

— Jason Kehe

Above: Shnipper is the director of "Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays." Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times


Gay marriage plays returning to L.A. for six performances

December 1, 2010 | 12:32 pm

Largo Gay marriage in California remains in a state of limbo after a federal appeals court put same-sex weddings on hold at least until December following another judge's decision declaring that Proposition 8 violated the U.S. Constitution.

Activists on both sides of the debate are rallying the troops for an eventual showdown. In West Hollywood, a group of prominent playwrights and actors are showing their support for the defeat of Prop. 8 by bringing back "Standing on Ceremony," a collection of short plays dealing with same-sex marriage.

"Standing on Ceremony" is scheduled to begin its limited run at the Largo at the Coronet on Monday and will play five more Monday nights: Jan. 10, 17, 24, 31  and Feb. 7. All performances start at 8 p.m.; net proceeds from ticket sales will go to benefit the American Foundation for Equal Rights and Equality California. (Tickets are going for $50 to $100.)

A different version of "Standing on Ceremony" received a one-night performance in 2009 at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. Versions of the show have also played at the New York Theatre Workshop.

The version opening this month in West Hollywood features short plays by Neil LaBute, Doug Wright, Moisés Kaufman, Paul Rudnick, José Rivera, Jordan Harrison, Jeffrey Hatcher, Wendy McLeod and Kathy Najimy.

Continue reading »

The Groundlings Theatre is going gay for a day

October 11, 2010 |  2:52 pm

Groundlings The Groundlings Theatre -- one of the top live-comedy spots in Los Angeles -- said that it will "go gay" for a day to show its support for the defeat of Prop. 8, the law that prohibits same-sex marriage in California.

Organizers said that Groundlings members and alumni will host a one-night event of gay-themed sketches and improv acts on Nov. 2. All of the proceeds from the performance will go to the American Foundation for Equal Rights, a nonprofit civil rights group that has been active in the gay-marriage debate.

In August, a federal judge in California overturned Prop. 8 on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The ruling is currently on hold as an appeal works its way through the courts.

The Nov. 2 event will include appearances by Tim Bagley, Jordan Black, Patrick Bristow, Stephanie Courtney, Rachael Harris, Mike Hitchcock, David Jahn, Kevin Kirkpatrick, Charlotte Newhouse, Jeremy Rowley, Lisa Schurga, Mitch Silpa, Alex Staggs and others.

The theater said that tickets for the event are $50 and that "cocktails will be provided."

A major player in the live-comedy scene, the Groundlings Theatre regularly produces shows at its space on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Some of the organization's alumni have gone on to star on NBC's "Saturday Night Live," including Will Ferrell, Ana Gasteyer, Kristen Wiig, Chris Katan, Maya Rudolph, Chris Parnell and more.

-- David Ng


Monster Mash: Palestinians protest Museum of Tolerance; Smithsonian's snow trouble; Polaroids headed for auction

February 11, 2010 |  8:48 am


-- Angered: A group of Palestinians have lodged a protest with the United Nations to prevent the construction of a Museum of Tolerance on the site of an ancient Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem. (The Guardian)

-- Caving in: A warehouse containing stored artifacts for the Smithsonian collapsed in Maryland as a result of the region's second blizzard this year. (NBC Washington)

-- For sale: Polaroid will sell a portion of its photography collection -- including images created by Andy Warhol and Chuck Close -- at an auction in June. (Bloomberg)

-- Rumor mill: Is trouble afoot for Cirque du Soleil's production of "Banana Shpeel" in New York? (New York Post)

-- Weighing options: The Fresno Art Museum and Fresno State are exploring the prospect of shifting the museum collection and its operations to the university. (Fresno Bee)

-- Cultural diplomacy: Artists in India and Pakistan create a program called Quest for Peace, which will bring the two nations together through music, literature and other cultural interactions. (NPR)

-- Major gift: Dallas Opera receives a $10-million challenge grant from an anonymous donor. (Dallas Morning News)

-- Celebration: A new public dance piece will commemorate same-sex unions in San Francisco. (San Francisco Chronicle)

-- No show: Lindsay Lohan won't be attending the Vienna Opera Ball after all. (E! Online)

-- And in the L.A. Times: The Century Plaza hotel has been spared the wrecking ball thanks to a deal between preservationists and the owner; MOCA announces more than 50 acquisitions in 2009.

-- David Ng

Photo: The cordoned-off construction site of a downtown Jerusalem museum dedicated to tolerance and coexistence. Credit: Dan Balilty / Associated Press

Remembering Matthew Shepard's story, on stages around the world

October 13, 2009 |  5:26 pm

Matthew Shepard The soft whistle of a passing breeze echoed through the performance space. Set on a stage at a distance from the audience, a group of men swayed against a backdrop of Wyoming's hills, as though they were at the mercy of the wind. They moved faintly side to side, side to side.

The swaying image -- moving in one direction and then the other -- resonated throughout the Monday night performance of “The Laramie Project, Ten Years Later ... an Epilogue” at the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage.  The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, which presented the production with Speak Theater Arts and the Broad Stage, opened the show with this rhythmic motion, symbolic of a deeper struggle.

The 2 1/2-hour production centered on playwright-director Moisés Kaufman’s return, with his Tectonic Theater Project, to the city where 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was killed by two young men 1998.  Tectonic originally visited Laramie, Wyo, just after Shepard’s death, which sparked a national dialogue on gay issues and hate crimes, and conducted interviews with the townspeople. In 2008, they went back to follow up. 

“It’s a story about the idea of change and the pace of change,” said Liesel Reinhart, who co-directed the Santa Monica production with Steven T. Seagle. “In California, the Prop. 8 struggle is a tug-of-war, taking us forward and taking us backward. And here’s this story of an incident that happened 11 years ago. By being a part of telling it, we push forward more. The only way for change is to keep the momentum going so you’re not pushed back.”

More than 150 theaters around the globe — from New York to Los Angeles and Madrid to Hong Kong — hosted staged readings Monday night of the play. 

Continue reading »

Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.