by Alec Clayton

In California, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Jamie Lee Curtis took the stage to read the play “8” in 2011. In Olympia, our own “star” performers – among them Clarke Hallum, Brian Tyrrell, Gwen Haw, Brenda Amburgy, Carolyn Willems Van Dijk, Peter Kappler, Andrew Gordon and Samantha Chandler – will perform in a two-night-only run of a historic play.

“8” will make its premiere in Olympia at the Washington Center at 7:30 pm on September 28 and 29.

The play “8” was written by Oscar Winning director Dustin Lance Black, and is based on research and transcripts from Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the 2010 federal court battle that dealt with the legality of Prop. 8, the ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage in California. The play uses actual court transcripts from the federal trial of California’s Proposition 8 and first-hand interviews. “8” shows both sides of the debate in a moving 90-minute play.

“In this production, we are excited to have stars from every stage in the South Sound,” said producer Ned Hayes. “For two nights only, you get to see some of the best actors from 5th Avenue, Harlequin, Capital Playhouse, Olympia Family Theater, and Theater Artists of Olympia, all on stage together!”

The Olympia production includes a cast of over twenty actors. Performers include Peter Kappler, who has performed in numerous leading roles at Harlequin Theater; Clarke Hallum, who originated the title role in the new Broadway production of “A Christmas Story” and appeared in that role in Chicago and in Seattle; Gwen Haw, most recently seen in the lead role of “Hello Dolly” at Capital Playhouse; Carolyn Willems Van Dijk, who appeared in 5th Avenue’s production of “Oklahoma” and “Cinderella” in 2012; Samantha Chandler, the managing director of Olympia Family Theater (OFT); Scott Douglas, who appeared as “Polonius” in “Hamlet” from Animal Fire Theater in summer 2012; Heather Christopher, leading light at Theater Artists of Olympia; Andrew Gordon, whose adaptation of “Wind in the Willows” opens on the OFT stage in 2012; and theater critic and director Christian Carvajal, whose work has been seen on stage at Olympia Little Theater and Lakewood Playhouse.

The “8” website — — includes an online video of the performance with Brad Pitt, Kevin Bacon, George Clooney, Jaime Lee Curtis and other screen luminaries in Los Angeles in 2011. Olympia’s own reading and performance is listed on the same website – details and tickets at

The Olympia production was organized by Olympia minister Carol McKinley, a pastor and activist in the Unitarian Universalist faith, and a staff member at Olympia’s Unitarian Universalist Congregation.

“The play faithfully portray opinions that are both pro LGBTQ marriage, as well as voices that are against marriage equality,” said McKinley. “We want to fairly represent the arguments that were in the court case in California.”
McKinley worked with local theater promoter Ned Hayes to bring the work to stage here in Olympia. Hayes previously produced an 8-hour staged reading of “Paradise Lost” with Nancy Pearl of the Washington Center for the Book in Seattle and has worked with several local theaters, including Olympia Family Theater and Capital Playhouse.

Brian Tyrrell is directing this production of “8.” Centralia College publications describe Tyrrell as “perhaps the premier dramatic arts director in the state.” Tyrrell is a professor at Centralia College and is currently president of the Northwest Playwrights Alliance. He is also the Associate Artistic Director of the Tacoma Actors Guild, a member of Actors Equity, and his credits run from the Intiman Theatre in Seattle to the National Shakespeare Company in New York. He has directed on many South Sound stages ranging from Harlequin to Capital Playhouse.

Playwright Dustin Lance Black created the successful television show “Big Love,” and also wrote and directed the Academy Award Winning movie “Milk” about the life of Harvey Milk and the movie “J. Edgar.” Black created the play “8” in light of the federal court system’s refusal to allow release of video recordings from the trial and to give the public a true account of what transpired in the courtroom.

The play is written in the style of verbatim theatre reenactment, using transcripts from the trial and journalist records, along with interviews from the plaintiffs, defendants and proponents involved.  The audience of this play will learn about the historical context of marriage from expert testimony and will understand the arguments used to justify bans on marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

In May 2009, AFER filed a lawsuit, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of plaintiffs, two same-sex couples, to challenge a voter-approved constitutional amendment, known as Proposition 8, that eliminated same-sex couples’ right to marry. The same-sex couples were represented by David Boies and former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, two high profile attorneys who opposed each other in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Bush v. Gore. In the Olympia production, Peter Kappler plays David Boies and Scott Douglas plays Theodore Olson.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) and Broadway Impact, sponsors of the play, have licensed the play for readings nationwide. “8” first opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in New York City on September 19, 2011, and later broadcast worldwide from the Ebell of Los Angeles on March 3, 2012. The September 28 and 29 performances are the only licensed productions in Olympia.

After the performance, the artists will engage in a post-show discussion with the audience, facilitated by State Representative Chris Reykdal and other local figures who have been involved in the Washington State marriage equality debate.