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Nelson Actors, Politicians, and Lawyers Re-Enact Gay Marriage Trial

Bill Metcalfe
By Bill Metcalfe
August 27th, 2012

Michael Graham has recruited a cross-section of people from the Nelson community—including some lawyers and politicians—to take part in a theatrical reading by the Academy Award winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

They will be producing 8, a play based on court testimony from Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, a recent successful court challenge of Proposition 8, an initiative that would have outlawed gay marriage in California. (The State of California is now appealing the decision to a higher court.)

The show runs on August 31 at the Capitol.

Funny, sad, emotional, farcical

“It was written as a reading, not as a play,” says Graham, a well known Nelson actor and director. He spoke with The Nelson Daily just before the group’s rehearsal today. “Though it has the makings of a great Broadway musical because it has very funny stuff, it has sad stuff, it is emotional and it has farcical parts. The interesting thing is you could not write this stuff. Well you could, but it would be unbelievable. Truth is stranger than fiction.  It’s very wonderful, moving and funny.”

“It’s moving,” he continues, “because you are dealing with real people, they are a family, a gay couple who don’t have children, but the lesbian couple have children and they are teenagers and they are a family.”

Dooley, Kozak, Mungall

The Nelson version of 8 has a cast of 21 readers. “I wanted to reach people that would not necessarily know about it or hear about it or even be interested, recruit them as readers. I did not want to have just a bunch of actors, I wanted people like politicians.”

Nelson Mayor John Dooley, Councillor Deb Kozak and Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall are in the cast.

Lawyers playing lawyers

“The chief prosecutor for Nelson is in it,” says Graham.  When people see their names they will bring in another type of audience. I didn’t want too many people who are “in the know.”

“I have some actors in it because I wanted the actors for the family scenario because there is some emotional stuff. I have lawyers playing lawyers, which is really interesting, Bob Long and Chris Cook.”

“I saw the play on YouTube,” says Deb Kozak.  “Michael invited me. It a great play and makes a statement about community, and about how things are progressing, so I am all in.”

“Michael asked me if I would be interested,” says Mayor Dooley, “and I said, sure. I have been in plays since I was a little kid in school.”

The Capitol Theatre stage will be set up like a courtroom, and the performers will be reading from their scripts.

Verbatim court transcripts and interviews

“The playwright has taken the dialogue verbatim from the transcripts,” says Graham, “and it is mostly the last three days of the final arguments, as well as from different interviews and different things that happened throughout the trial. Basically it happens in the courtroom but there are flashbacks to other testimony and to people talking outside.

“The funny part is some of the people that are there giving testimony for the defendants, that turns out to be almost ridiculous and that is what I meant by farcical. Eventually one of the guys actually does a 360 and ends up going to the other side, much to the chagrin of the government lawyer. That little scene is really quite funny.”

The reading has been staged in major cities and in small towns across the U.S. as a fundraiser for the upcoming Supreme Court challenge. Graham says he has always wanted to do something theatrical for gay pride week, “something that is not a drag show.”

The judge’s conclusions

In Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, Judge Walker rejected the assertion that kids need a married mom and dad, said there is no material difference between same-sex and different-sex relationships, and held that the Proposition 8 proponents could not identify any factually verifiable way in which allowing same-sex couples to marry would harm different-sex couples.

The 21 readers take the Capitol Theatre stage at 7:30 on Friday, August 31. Tickets are available at the Capitol Box Office.

Here is the full list of the political and theatrical and legal luminaries in Graham’s production:

Karen Agnew, Michael Calladine, Chris Cook, Oscar Derkx, Gus Fowler, John Dooley, Neil Harrower, Pat Henman, Deb Kozak,, Roger Ley, Bob Long, Joanna Maratta, Clay McCann, Brian Monroe, Michelle Mungal, Jeremy Pawlowicz, Bradley Roulston, Philip Seagram, Wade Swagar, Tyler Stuart, and Taylor Dean Wilson.

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