With the election right around the corner, there is no better time for the play “8” to be performed, and the University Theatre is taking that sentiment to heart this weekend.
The play, written by Academy Award-winning writer Dustin Lance Black (2008’s “Milk”), is about the trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger from 2009 regarding Proposition 8 in California, which restricted marriage to be only between a man and a woman.
The play’s dialogue is composed entirely of transcripts and journalistic records of the trial and interviews with those involved. The performances are going to be direct readings from the script.
Junior Nathaniel Jackson plays Charles Cooper, the defense lawyer.
“These two couples were suing the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, because it (the proposition) infringed on their rights as American citizens, and this is the trial that took place,” Jackson said.
Sophomore Russell Mernagh plays Ryan Kendall, a witness who is gay and was forced to undergo conversion therapy.
“It’s a new play,” Mernagh said. “It’s a hot-button issue, especially with the election coming up. It’s one of those things where a lot of theatre companies are going to be doing it because of the current political climate and the push and pull that’s happening in our country.”
Mernagh said that the play is a reminder to the public about the underlying things being done by conservatives.
“As you can see from the show, the liberal side is based on actual fact and the more conservative side, the side against gay marriage, is more based on emotional feeling and fear,” Jackson said.
Jackson said that “8” will appeal to students because the issue is happening now and Western is a diverse campus.
“This is an issue that will be going to the Supreme Court, and it’s an issue that our generation is going to have to tackle,” Mernagh said.
Mernagh said that the play’s underlying message is about equality.
“This is obviously about gays and gay marriage and stuff, but it mirrors what was done to blacks, women, pretty much any minority group in American history,” Jackson said.
According to Mernagh, the show also points out a Supreme Court case from 1967 regarding marriage equality between blacks and whites.
“How we look at a black man marrying a white woman as so basic and such a thing that should happen and should be able to happen today, it’s kind of like that’s what happened 40 years ago, and this is what’s happening now,” Mernagh said. “What we’re pushing for is that a man marrying another man is the same as a white man marrying a black woman, where it just should be commonplace and should be accepted.”
Mernagh said that Proposition 8 is a big issue that changes the Constitution in such a way that it strips liberty and civil rights from a group of people.
“If the Supreme Court rules that Proposition 8 is a fair addition to our Constitution then it sets us back 50 or 100 years,” Mernagh said.
Jackson said that he will be glad if the Proposition 8 is denied because it will allow people to move on and it gives gay people rights that they don’t have.
The University Theatre will present their stage reading of “8,” directed by D. Terry Williams, this Friday and Saturday (Nov. 2 and 3) at 8 p.m. in the York Theatre. Admission is free, with voluntary donations being accepted for WMU LBGT Student Services. Seats are expected to fill, so reservations are recommended. In order to reserve a spot, call 269-387-6222.
To learn more about the University Theatre’s production of “8,” visit their website.