Using Art to Open Up the Political Process in ‘8’

When Perry v. Schwarzenegger (which became Perry v. Brown), the legal case challenging California’s Proposition 8 ballot initiative which banned marriage equality, went to trial, the proceedings, like the proceedings in many American courtrooms, weren’t broadcast. It’s a case that would have been of interest to thousands, if not more, Americans who had to rely on news reports of the case. That may have been fortunate for proponents of Prop 8, who spent a considerable amount of tangling themselves in some truly linguistically and logically hilarious knots. But it was still a lost opportunity.

Fortunately, playwright and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black attended a considerable amount of the trial, and adapted transcripts of it into 8. I’d heard excerpts of the play, which is both insightful and funny before, but a group of celebrities did a reading of it over the weekend, and it’s even better. And it’s a great example of how art can open up closed government proceedings and amplify them to a much wider audience than they might have found in the first place. Artists don’t always have to be facilitators of the messages and work preassigned them by people who work full-time in politics. They can break information out, and they can frame the message themselves.

And thanks to YouTube, you can enjoy that reading—and that amplification—yourself: