The 8th annual Gay in Appalachia event, with license from the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) and Broadway Impact, features a one-night-only reading of the new documentary play, “8.” 

Written by Academy Award-winning screenwriter and AFER founding board member Dustin Lance Black ("Milk," "J Edgar"), the play chronicles the historic trial in the federal constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8. The reading, directed by Virginia Tech’s Susanna Rinehart, will be held at the Lyric Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 11, at 7:30 p.m.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, will lead a discussion after the performance. The play is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Using court transcripts and first-hand interviews, screenwriter Black demystifies the debate around marriage equality by chronicling the landmark trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger. The play presents the historical context of marriage from expert testimony. The audience will hear the arguments used to justify bans on marriage for gay and lesbian couples and witness the human cost of discrimination. Rinehart, associate professor of theatre at Virginia Tech, has invited a cast of recognizable faces from the Blacksburg and Virginia Tech community to give voice to the actual words of those involved in the trial.

“I am so excited to have been granted permission to bring this extraordinary piece to southwest Virginia,” said Rinehart. “We are part of a national dialogue sparked by hundreds of productions of this play in cities and towns all over this country. The power of hearing real people’s stories in their own words is that it moves significant issues of social justice and equality from being mere abstraction to being truly felt in a personal and immediate way.”

Rinehart also is thrilled with the extraordinary performers who have signed on to be part of this reading. “I wanted an inclusive broad reflection of our community to begin with the circle of people on the stage, and I guarantee that everyone in the audience will recognize more than one of the faces they see up on the stage.”

As“8″reveals both sides of the debate in a moving 90-minute theatre reading, it is sure to prompt discussion following the performance. With over 30 years of legal and government relations experience at the federal, state, and local levels, Gastañaga will be an articulate and informed discussion leader. She was the first woman to serve as Virginia’s Chief Deputy Attorney General and she has served as a senior advisor to the leadership of the Virginia General Assembly. Before joining the ACLU of Virginia, Gastañaga represented nonprofit organizations at the Virginia General Assembly on issues including immigration policy, violence against women, and LGBT rights. In 2006, she was the campaign manager for The Commonwealth Coalition’s campaign against Virginia’s so-called “marriage amendment.”

"Gay in Appalachia has become a fall tradition at Virginia Tech, one that brings the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community together with our allies to explore various issues through the arts," said Jean Elliott, founder and producer of the event. Gay in Appalachia has showcased filmmakers, theatre readings, and best-selling authors, with discussions centered on themes of religion, resiliency, and election-year politics. Visiting scholars and artists have addressed packed theatres, delivered numerous class lectures, and participated in round-table discussions with local clergy. 

“Over the last eight years, the Gay in Appalachia series has focused on building a genuinely diverse, inclusive community,” said Elliott, who was named a 2012 OUTstanding Virginian by Equality Virginia.

Presented by the LGBT Caucus of Virginia Tech, Gay in Appalachia has sponsors from across the university including the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Diversity CommitteeCenter for the Arts, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, Vice President for Student Affairs, Dean of Students’ Office, Multicultural Programs and Services, Graduate Recruiting and Diversity Initiatives, the Women’s Center, Women’s and Gender StudiesDepartment of Theatre and Cinema, and the LGBTA. This event is also a candidate for a Women and Minority Artists and Scholars Lecture Series grant.

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