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PlayMakers piece on Proposition 8 precedes NC Amendment One vote

The cast of the one-night staged reading of '8' written by Dustin Lance Black. The play is presented by the PlayMakers Repertory Company is on Monday in Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art.

Clarification (4/09/2012, 4:46 p.m.): An earlier version of this story neglected to mention that the reading of “8” is being presented by both PlayMakers and UNC’s Department of Dramatic Art. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for any confusion.

It’s a coincidence that a local theater company is producing a dramatic reading about Proposition 8 less than a month before the state will vote on Amendment One, a similar piece of legislation.

But the people involved with the project at PlayMakers Repertory Company and the Department of Dramatic Art say the timing is fortuitous.

“Having this production today offers people an opportunity to get real information about the experience of voting for the rights of minority groups and how it impacts a community,” said Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt.

Kleinschmidt will make his PlayMakers debut reading stage directions for the one-night reading of Dustin Lance Black’s script for “8” tonight at Paul Green Theatre.

Nathaniel Claridad, a UNC graduate student, proposed the idea in the fall for a campus production of “8” after he read that Black was offering the play’s rights to colleges and community.

Black, who won an Academy Award for the 2008 film “Milk,” wrote the play for public service as well as entertainment, said Tim Scales, one of the reading’s producers.

The play is about the closed trial that overturned California’s Prop 8 in 2010, based on transcripts and Black’s firsthand interviews.

Readings of the play have been performed on Broadway and across the country with such names as George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

Though the play is set in California, Director Jeremy Skidmore said it will be relevant to North Carolina audiences.

“It’s more of a launching pad to begin a deeper conversation more specific to North Carolina and Amendment One,” he said.

But the pieces of legislation are very different, said Jen Jones, spokeswoman for Equality NC and Protect All NC Families.

“In California there was marriage equality, and it was taken away,” Jones said.

“But here in North Carolina, there are two state statutes currently in place that ban gay marriage. So the amendment in North Carolina is actually much worse.”

Jones said one crucial difference between the battle over Prop 8 and Amendment One is the year. The conversation about gay marriage is much more open than it was only four years ago, she said.

“We ask people in other states what they would’ve done differently,” she said. “They say, ‘Well, we would’ve fought this in 2012.’”

Scales said PlayMakers and the dramatic art department are not advocating a position for or against Amendment One.

“Presenting a work like this gives an audience all the information they need to really think about and talk about the issue, and take away what they like,” Scales said.

Kleinschmidt, who is gay, said that though he has a personal stake in the May vote, he wants people to make an informed decision regardless.

He said his experience with “8” has shown him the similarities of politics and theater.

“I got into politics because I cared about local issues and wanted to have an impact, but part of the job is being in front of the people,” he said.

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“There are similarities between being in front for issues, and putting yourself on stage.”

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