Teens, a group unlikely to show interest in any sort of permanence, seem an unlikely group to engage in debate over gay marriage.
Even so, 13 high-school aged actors found the subject compelling enough to unanimously agree to participate in a reading “8,” a theatrical re-enactment by playwright Dustin Lance Black based on transcripts of Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now Perry v Brown,) the 2009 Federal court trial that invalidated Prop. 8, the voter-approved initiative denying gays and lesbians marriage rights previously attained by decree of the California Supreme Court.
The reading by the Laguna Playhouse Youth Conservatory and Repertory 2 will be performed at BC Space Gallery, 235 Forest Ave., at 7 p.m. on May 11 and at 5 and 7:30 p.m. on May 12.
Director Donna Inglima obtained permission to stage “8” from Broadway Impact, which holds its license. The play made its Broadway debut last September and played in Los Angeles in March with the high-octane cast of Brad Pitt, Martin Sheen, Jamie Lee Curtis and George Clooney among others.
The reading takes place at BC Space because the Laguna Playhouse is booked and young actors gain experience working in different venues before a variety of audiences, she said.
BC Space previously hosted the Playhouse’s Youth Repertory when they performed “The War at Home” in 2008, said proprietor Mark Chamberlain.
Black wrote “8” as a re-enactment rather than a play, eschewing a hierarchy of characters, props and costumes. It is based on court transcripts, journalists’ records and interviews with plaintiffs and defendants as well as opponents and proponents of the 2008 initiative, reportedly the highest financed state initiative with $43.3 million spent in support and $39.9 million in opposition. In 2010, federal District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Prop. 8 violated due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Since women cast members outnumber men, readings are only gender-specific when specified as, for example, in characterization of plaintiff Kris Perry’s spouse or sons. Laguna Beach High School senior Kenzie McMillan reads the part of Kris as well as Doctor Tam, a witness for the defense. “I have many family friends who are gay or lesbian. I feel that everyone has the right to be in love and happy,” she said, adding that she knew of someone who had been married and lost that right.
Although McMillan, 18, takes Playhouse repertory classes, she has not participated in the high school theater program. “I like the variety that the Playhouse presents, the different people from different schools and the chance to work with adults,” she said. Entering Saddleback College in the fall, she plans to become a teacher.
Involved in the Playhouse’s Youth Theater since third grade, Jeremy Canter, who reads the part of defense counsel Charles Cooper, said his friends are accepting of gay marriage. “It will benefit America and the world to accept different beliefs and cultures. I find it fascinating and exciting to address an issue that has a lot of weight and importance in society,” he said. A senior at Aliso Viejo High School, he will enter Tufts University this fall. His younger brother Aaron, a four-year LP thespian, is also in “8.”
Shawna Yang, 15, reads the part of David Boies, counsel for plaintiffs. She finds the topic relevant for our times. “Teens don’t talk about that sort of thing a lot, but I find it interesting to spread awareness of this issue,” said the LBHS sophomore, a Playhouse Youth Theater participant for the last three years.
The cast represents a cross-section of south-county, including Laguna Beach, and there were no dissenting votes,” said Inglima. “They were extremely excited and moved by the play dealing with social justice. Equality is an important issue for them.” She emphasized that while the script contains its share of legalese, it also contains passion and humor and, above all, reality.
The entire cast includes Eliana Alcouloumre, Aaron Canter, Jeremy Canter, Nicole Doiron, Ben Field, Allison Gerstley, D’Arcy Green, Madeline Jenkns, Sander Kushen, Jordan McIntyre, Kenzie McMillen, Gillian Perry and Shawna Yang.