Looking at '8,' and an LDS writer's trip to 'the lions' den'
Published: August 6, 2012 10:32AM
Updated: August 6, 2012 10:32AM
Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune The cast of the play "8," created by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, bow for the cheering crowd following their performance at the Jeanne Wagner Theatre at Rose Wagner Center for the Performing Arts, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City. The play is about the California state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage and documents through script and actors the arguments which ruled the proposition unconstitutional.

There probably will be as many reactions to Plan-B Theatre Company's production this weekend of “8” as there were people who saw it.

But two reactions are required reading to anybody who cares about theater in Utah or about the issue of same-sex marriage that the play discusses.

One reaction is from the Tribune's Ben Fulton, a lucid and fair-minded account of Saturday night's performance – and the post-show Q-and-A with Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who visited Utah in a show of support.

The other reaction worth reading is from Dave Mortensen, co-founder of Mortal Fools Theatre Project in Provo, and the founder of UtahTheaterBloggers.com. On the UTB blog, Mortensen gave a personal appraisal of the performance – and of the issue of same-sex marriage, about which Mortensen wrote that he doesn't discuss much, as a devout Mormon (whose leaders preach against homosexual acts) and as someone who works with a good many LGBT people in the theater community.

“I’ll admit that I felt a bit like I was entering the lions’ den last night,” Mortensen wrote. “I was quite worried the play would belittle my religion and offend those beliefs I held so dear (in the same vein that I’m sure many from the LGBT community feel that my religion may offend them so personally).”

Mortensen singled out actor Kirt Bateman for praise, for his handling of the tough role of Charles Cooper, the lawyer arguing in favor of “traditional” marriage and the defense of the anti-gay-marriage ballot measure Prop. 8.

“Despite the role being completely against Bateman’s own beliefs, I felt he approached that task with as much respect and love possible,” Mortense wrote. “It would have been far too easy to play Cooper as a villainous caricature, but Bateman let the character fail by his own merits, he was not pushed into the line of fire as would have been so easy to do.”

Mortensen wrote that the play “forced me to continue thinking on how I will express my opinions regarding this debate with those individuals I love no matter which side of it they are on.”