Robyn Berg Directs Rhubarb Theater's Staged Reading of Dustin Lance Black's 8



Robyn Berg directs the sold-out Nashville production of Dustin Lance Black's 8, a play chronicling the historic trial in the federal constitutional challenge to California's Proposition 8, presented by Rhubarb Theater Company on Monday, May 7, at Darkhorse Theater.

Black, who penned the Academy Award-winning feature film Milk and the new film J. Edgar, based 8 on the actual words of the trial transcripts, first-hand observations of the courtroom drama and interviews with the plaintiffs and their families.

Rhubarb Theater Company's staged reading of 8 will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, May 7, at The Darkhorse Theater, located at 4610 Charlotte Avenue in Nashville. All tickets are $8, with proceeds going to the American Foundation for Equal Rights.

"Love is the most powerful human emotion of all time," says Berg. "Denying two people the ability to put their love on the same level as someone else seems wrong to me. I know so many same sex couples who exemplify this emotion in its purest form and I strongly believe they deserve the right to file taxes together, visit each other in hospitals, plan a wedding together and so on."

Berg has an MFA in Acting from the University of Florida, and spent years directing, acting and teaching theater across the nation before finding a home in Music City (where she recently played Portia in the Nashville Shakespeare Festival's Julius Caesar). Most of her time was spent in Chicago and New York City, where equal rights were largely accepted. Upon moving south, Berg found more people were unaware of the oppression many gay Americans are confronted with daily and hopes this production educates and spurs action.

The cast of 22 includes many of Nashville's finest performing, including Belmont faculty memberJim Al-Shamma; former Lipscomb Theatre professor Jerry Henderson; Christopher Mohnani, artistic director of Dance Theatre of Tennessee; Nettie Kraft, Nashville Shakespeare Festival education director Nettie Kraft; Rhubarb artistic director Trish Crist; contributing editor Jeffrey Ellis; First Night Award-winning actor Phil Brady; Anthony Just, Wesley Paine, Phil Perry and Christopher Bosen.

Following the hour-long staged reading, Rhubarb will host a talkback panel of local experts on civil rights and marriage equality efforts in Tennessee and beyond.

8 had its much-heralded Broadway world premiere last September 19, at the sold-out Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York City, and it premiered in Los Angeles on March 3.

"People need to witness what happened in the Proposition 8 trial, if for no other reason than to see inequality and discrimination unequivocally rejected in a court of law where truth and facts matter," Black, a board member of the American Foundation for Equal Right (AFER) says.  "The goal of 8 is to show the world that marriage equality is a basic constitutional right. The facts are on our side and truth always finds the light. AFER and Broadway Impact are doing all we can to help speed that process along."

Throughout 2012, AFER and Broadway Impact are licensing 8 for free to colleges and community theatres nationwide in order to spur action, dialogue and understanding.  Most productions will be followed by a talkback where cast and audience members can discuss the issues presented in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial.

Proposition 8 was struck down by the Federal District Court in August 2010.  That decision was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by the anti-marriage proponents of Proposition 8. 

AFER's legal team was at the Ninth Circuit in December 2011 for a hearing to urge that court to unseal the trial video. The American public was not given a chance to witness the historic trial because the Proponents launched a desperate attempt to forever hide the video recording of the trial. A ruling on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the release of the trial video is expected soon. The Perry case is widely anticipated to end up in the United States Supreme Court. 

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.

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