SALT LAKE CITY — If you’re expecting a “professional” review of a production, this post is going to disappoint. Thankfully, I write for the Utah Theater BLOGGERS, which means at times we can stray from the conventional format and get personal if the occasion permits.
Last night, I attended a reading of Dustin Lance Black’s play entitled 8. It was performed as part of Plan-B Theatre’s Script-in-Hand series as a fundraiser for the theatre company, as well as the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
Using the transcripts from the California Proposition 8 trial and first-hand interviews, Black attempts to show both sides of the debate over the definition of marriage, and marriage equality for members of the LGBT community. The success of the script lies in its ability to honestly share the stories of individuals in the LGBT community. It calls for a black and white view of marriage equality and has proven quite unifying for communities all across the country. Hundreds of readings have been staged from coast to coast.
Personally, the topic of marriage equality is not one that I openly talk about with many people. I’m a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka “Mormon”) and hold the doctrines taught by that church very close. At the same time, working in the theatre I’ve come to know many individuals from the LGBT community. My experience of listening to their stories and loving the individuals sharing those stories has also contributed to a large part of who I am.
I’ll admit that I felt a bit like I was entering the lions’ den last night. I was quite worried the play would belittle my religion and offend those beliefs I held so dear (in the same vein that I’m sure many from the LGBT community feel that my religion may offend them so personally). I was particularly anxious to see how the attorney defending the “traditional” definition of marriage would be portrayed. Thankfully, that role was cast to Kirt Bateman.
I’m continually impressed by Bateman, not just as an actor, but as a person. Yes, I realize that sounds cliché. If you remember a while back Bateman organized a benefit performance at the Rose Wagner entitled “Different = Amazing” in order to raise funds for anti-bullying education in Utah. Sitting in on one of those early organization meetings I remember Bateman sharing that he wanted to make sure the performance didn’t turn into one group bashing on the other (which is so often the case in the politicized and personal causes). His point was he wanted to foster discussion, respect, and ultimately improve the lives of the children this particular event was put on to help.
Last night Bateman was given the difficult task of playing attorney Charles Cooper arguing in defense of “traditional” marriage. Despite the role being completely against Bateman’s own beliefs, I felt he approached that task with as much respect and love possible. It would have been far too easy to play Cooper as a villainous caricature, but Bateman let the character fail by his own merits, he was not pushed into the line of fire as would have been so easy to do.
The entire cast, in fact, provided this same respect and honesty to each of their roles. They are a veritable who’s who of theatre in Salt Lake City featuring several performers from Plan-B’s pool of actors, Jason Bowcutt of the Utah Arts Council, Bill Allred from X96’s Radio From Hell, Doug Fabrizio from KUER 90.1 FM, and many others. Attending the show might just be worth seeing all of these individuals on the same stage.
One moment in the script that particularly touched me was when Kris, played by Teresa Sanderson, tells of how she’s always faced with the fear of whether or not someone will hate her once they know that she is a lesbian. Her character shared that since she had this trait that nobody likes, she goes to great lengths to develop traits that people do like. That fear of being hated, I think, is something that all of us can relate to at some time or another. At its core, I believe that this script does a tremendous job at demystifying the “other” in an attempt to dispel fear and foster understanding.
I’m glad I attended the performance. It’s forced me to continue thinking on how I will express my opinions regarding this debate with those individuals I love no matter which side of it they are on. I encourage you to get on the wait list for tickets as this is an event that is well worth attending no matter where your personal opinions fall on the topic.