Black, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Milk, has based the work -- first seen last fall in New York -- on court transcripts and interviews surrounding the 2010 federal court case Perry V. Schwarzenegger, which sought to overturn Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage in California.
The staged reading, to be directed by Rob Reiner, is a benefit for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the non-profit group that brought the case to court, which is also producing the show with Broadway Impact, a non-profit organization of theater artists in support of marriage equality.
O'Malley, Broadway Impact's co-founder (and a current star of the Broadway megahit The Book of Mormon), says the theatrical community has a unique opportunity to contribute by participating in the reading. "Every theater in the country knows what to do with a script like this -- you put it on the stage and let it live," he says. "At first, though, we were worried that this might be preaching to the choir, but then we realized this is going to be teaching our choir how to sing. It's going to give them the tools to say this is why this is my constitutional right."
O'Malley is impressed and delighted at the caliber of actors who are participating. "By having amazing stars like George Clooney and Jane Lynch, it gets people to take notice of the script," he says. I have been shocked and amazed by what people will do when it comes to this issue. They give the time, the energy, and the financial resources. There is that sense of knowing that this is a moment in time that we have to stand up and do something."
Each of the actors taking part in the one-night-only performance cleared their busy schedules in order to donate their time to this very personal cause. "I'm married in Massachusetts, but not married in California," says Lynch, an Emmy Award winner for her role as Sue Sylvester on FOX's Glee. "So I have a great personal interest. But I'm also interested in it for young people who are looking to their own future and want to have equal rights in this society."
Ferguson, last seen on Broadway in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and currently starring on ABC's Modern Family, says he would have performed this play anywhere. "It's a privilege to do something of social value," says the actor, adding the casting of the play is significant in itself. "I'm touched that they put so many out gay actors in these roles. It adds a legitimacy to this piece."
He also admits to being shocked by some of the play's verbatim dialogue from court transcripts. "It's hard to hear some of these characters' dialogue and not think they sound like idiots making this argument," says Ferguson.
For her part, Lynch wholeheartedly agrees. "They didn't have a legal argument. All they had is 'I don't like it' and 'I think homosexuality is wrong.' The hilarity of this trial sells itself," she says.
O'Malley also points out that the Los Angeles production brings the play home. "California is a very special place and the expectation of being forward thinkers and a place that is accepting and tolerant of all people," he notes."To have Prop 8 be the stain on that is personal for Californians. They're a lot more motivated to remove that stain. I think it will be more emotional for a lot of people in the audience and on the stage."