A Night of “8”: The Trial Gets Its Star Treatment

Supporters of California’s ban on Proposition 8 won their effort to keep tapes of the federal trial over same-sex marriage under seal, but they won’t be keeping the drama of those proceedings secret.

George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Martin Sheen, Jane Lynch and Kevin Bacon were among those who staged a reenactment of some of the highlights of the case via a reading of “8,” Dustin Lance Black’s play that incorporates actual testimony from the trial with personal recollections from the two couples seeking to wed.

The Saturday benefit at the Wilshire Ebell for the American Foundation for Equal Rights — the org of political and entertainment industry activists backing the case — also was streamed on YouTube, generating more than 210,000 views.

“The American people are going to see this, and they are going to have the same feelings in their hearts as we all do, and it is going to make a huge difference,” said Ted Olson, the lead attorney who is pursuing the case along with David Boies.

The crescendo of the play is in the trial’s closing arguments, when Martin Sheen, as Olson, sums up the case by cannily using the words of David Blankenhorn, one of the witnesses for Prop 8 proponents yet ended up helping the plaintiffs. The day that same sex marriage is permitted, “we will be more American.”

“I wish I was that good,” Olson quipped after watching Sheen. “…He can do it in a way that you can’t do it in court, but the fact is that it is the words that made the difference.”

Plans are to enlist schools and college campuses to stage the play, and Rob Reiner, who directed the reading, is working on a movie. And the performance of “8” will now be available online — with the star power perhaps drawing more than would have tuned in if the raw trial footage were run on C-SPAN. Sheen even sees some parallels to “Inherit the Wind,” a classic play that brought to life the Scopes trial.

“Far more than a theatrical presentation, it is a reflection of what really happened,” Sheen said. The trial proceedings “have never been heard before, and now they are going to be heard around the country.”

Among those attending the event were Barbra Streisand, Paris Barclay, Norman Lear and Ken Mehlman. The event was a reading, but that didn’t mean the actors treated it like it was old hat. Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who was among the cast, tweeted that Pitt whispered to him at one point, “How do I do a curtain call.”

The complete staging of “8” is here.

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