West Coast premiere of Black play to benefit Prop 8 challenger

George Clooney will star in the West Coast premiere of “8,” Dustin Lance Black’s play about the federal trial to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Rob Reiner will direct the performance of “8,” a one-night-only benefit for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which is spearheading the challenge to Proposition 8. The event will be held March 3 at the Wilshire Ebell Theater, with additional cast members to be announced.

“It is astonishing that gay and lesbian Americans are still treated as second-class citizens,” Clooney said in a statement. “I am confident that, very soon, the laws of this nation will reflect the basic truth gay and lesbian people — like all human beings — are born equal in dignity and rights.”

The play is based on the actual words in the trial transcripts and interviews with the plaintiffs and their families. Black and Reiner, board members of the foundation, attended much of the trial as well as a recent hearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals. A decision is pending there on whether to uphold U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.

Chad Griffin, the president of the foundation’s board, said the “play will continue to show Americans — one by one — that prejudice and fear cannot stand up to truth and justice.”

A goal of the play has not just been to raise legal funds but to dramatize the trial for a wider audience. Walker’s efforts to televise the proceedings were rebuffed by the Supreme Court, although the Court of Appeals is weighing whether the tapes of the proceedings should be released.

The debut performance of “8” in New York in September raised a reported $1 million for the foundation.

The performance is being presented by the foundation as well as Broadway Impact.

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