Production to highlight gay rights

Kiwi actors join the fight for gay equality

AMY MAAS
Last updated 15:35 17/05/2012
Robyn Malcolm
PHIL DOYLE/Fairfax Media
OVER THE LIMIT: Robyn Malcolm.
Jennifer Ward-Lealand
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Jennifer Ward-Lealand
Peter Elliot
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Peter Elliot

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Top Auckland actors Robyn Malcolm, Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Peter Elliott are banding together to put on a free production highlighting gay rights issues and the fight for equality.

Directed by Kacie Stetson, they will stage a one-night only free reading of 8 - written by US gay rights activist Dustin Lance Black who also penned the Academy Award-winning Milk and, more recently, J. Edgar - on July 11 at the Maidment Theatre.

The production is a staged reenactment with transcripts from the drama played out in a courtroom where a trial saw California's Proposition 8 - which stripped gay and lesbian couples from the right to marry - overturned.

"They did everything they could to keep the media out of the courtroom. Dustin Black did a great thing by following the trial and lifted out the dialogue from the actual transcripts," said Stetson.

"What people don't understand is that it wasn't the issue of gay marriage, what was on trial was homophobia."

For Stetson, the issue is also personal.

"Gay couples aren't allowed to adopt or get married. [A civil union] is not the same, and it's important for people to understand we're not always treated equally."

Stetson, who has lived in Auckland just over a year, said she moved here from the US with her Kiwi partner after a long-term battle for equality.

"The main reason we moved to New Zealand was because my partner and I weren't allowed to get married and we have a child, so there were long-term issues," said Stetson.

The couple, who met eight years ago while her partner was an actress in California, have a son, who will turn five on Saturday. Their son is her partner's biological child through a sperm donor, but Stetson was only legally allowed to adopt him as a step-parent - at a cost of thousands of dollars.

Stetson said she "hounded" Broadway Productions for rights to the script, making the Auckland production the first international staging of 8.

Audiences will be able to see the production for free, although donations are asked of patrons to raise funds for Rainbow Youth and the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER).

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The staged reading will see the actors stand on a bare stage, with scripts in hand, and a short question and answer session will be hosted by local gay rights activists.

It originally screened in New York in September 2011, raising more than $1 million to support AFER's fight for marriage equality.

WHAT: 8
WHERE: Maidment Theatre Mainstage
WHEN: July 11, 7.30pm

Tickets for 8 are available from the Maidment Theatre from June 25. There is a limit of four per person, and a donation is asked for.

- Auckland Now

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