Community Palette

8 A Play by Dustin Lance Black

June 5, 2012

Monday night at the Woolly Mammoth Theater the play 8 by Dustin Lance Black was presented as a reading. Funding for the evening was provided by Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher LLP. After the reading I was honored to participate in a town hall conversation that included among others Rae Carey (Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force), Richard S. Madaleno, Jr. (Maryland State Senator and author of the bill that approved marriage-equality in Maryland) and David Catania (DC Councilmember). We talked about and answered questions from the audience on the issues surrounding marriage-equality

To set the scene one must know that this play is about the trial that followed the election in November 2008 when the people of California  approved Proposition 8, voting to re-write their constitution to ban marriage for gay and lesbian citizens. The Supreme Court then blocked plans to broadcast the trial live but they couldn’t stop the transcript from getting out.

The play centers on the 12 days of testimony in January 2010 that drew crowds to the California courtroom as well as millions who followed the trial online. What you see is the testimony, the witnesses, and hear the words that the proponents of Proposition 8 fought hard to keep from public view.

The Woolly Mammoth received permission to do the reading from the American Foundation for Equal Rights and Broadway Impact, In 2012 they will license and coordinate the staged readings of 8 on campuses, and in University, community and regional theaters across the nation. For anyone who has an interest in the issues surrounding marriage-equality and the issues that opponents raise, or as this trial shows, fail to raise, this is a must see event.

Woolly worked with other area theaters to stage the reading and asked Alan Paul of the Shakespeare Theatre to direct. Actors from their own company like Emily Townley (who played Maggie Gallagher from the National Organization for Marriage, (NOM) to perfection), and others like the brilliant Holly Twyford (who played Kris Perry one of the plaintiffs in the case), and Tom Story (who played Dr. Ilan Meyer) participated in the reading. The play is interspersed with the replaying of commercials that the proponents of Proposition 8 used to win. They focused on scaring parents about the impact that marriage-equality would have on children. What is so fascinating is that only one of the people who were the major proponents of passing Proposition 8 in the commercials was willing to testify at the trial because all their ‘facts’ couldn’t withstand the scrutiny of cross examination. They were all lies.

What makes this play so relevant now to people in the DC Metro area is that those commercials and the lies about what impact marriage-equality has on children and heterosexual marriage will be played out again this fall in Maryland. Maggie Gallagher and NOM will once again spread their lies and try to convince the people of Maryland to vote down marriage-equality. Those lies will be retold in millions of dollars of commercials and unless enough money is raised to get the truth out Maryland could be another state that rejects civil and human rights for gays and lesbians.

If you are interested in your theater group putting on a reading of 8 you can go online to Information on the fight for marriage-equality in Maryland and the chance to make a donation can be found online at

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Metro TeenAIDS 19th Annual Auction at The Embassy of Italy June 7th

May 14, 2012

Join Metro TeenAIDS for a fun evening on June 7th at the Embassy of Italy as they honor House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi who will help raise funds to support the youth of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

Metro TeenAIDS is the leading community health organization solely dedicated to supporting young people in the fight against HIV/AIDS. There is nothing more important that we can do than educate our young people about this terrible disease. Metro TeenAIDS does this through their programs of support and advocacy work to prevent the spread of HIV.

Some facts you may not know are that Washington, D.C. has one of the highest AIDS rates in the country but comparatively few of those infected are getting the treatment they need. It is estimated that between 1,000 and 1,500 infected young people live in the Washington, D.C. area and yet only about 100 of them are receiving medical care. Across the nation, half of all new HIV infections occur among people under the age of 25 and as many as one third of all HIV-infected young people do not know they carry the virus.

With so much ignorance, and such limited healthcare, young people face the highest risk of infection. They live in a culture that heightens those risks. We know that adolescents tend to distrust adults who could help them, yet face intense pressure to become sexually active at an early age.

All this is why the work of Metro TeenAIDS is so important. For 20 years they have provided education programs and prevention resources to well over 200,000 young people, family members, and youth workers. They work to responsibly provide innovative, science-based, effective education on HIV prevention, care, and related issues. They provide comprehensive, culturally competent, and age-appropriate counseling; positive youth development programming; and linkages to treatment services to youth who are either affected or infected by HIV.

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At the Embassy of Italy on June 7th you will meet some of the people working the hardest to care for the youth of the District of Columbia and support their work. You can bid on items including dinners at great restaurants; special wines provided by Estadio; and trips to Puerto Rico and the use of a great vacation home on the beautiful island of Isla Mujeres. Or bid on an invitation for you and three guests to a taping of Inside Washington hosted by Gordon Peterson.

Plan to join Nancy Pelosi and the Italian Ambassador, His Excellency Claudio Bisogniero, as he welcomes Metro TeenAIDS to the embassy. Your donations will help them expand their advocacy program and increase the capacity of young people to educate decision makers, policy makers, and funders about HIV and encourage their support for policies that promote HIV prevention and care services. Help Metro TeenAIDS continue their mission which is providing the highest level of service to the community to prevent future HIV/AIDS cases and care for those who are ill today.

To join Nancy Pelosi and Metro TeenAIDS on June 7th you can buy your tickets here or call 202.543.8246.


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Will on the Hill: A Uniquely Washington Event

May 8, 2012

Monday night was the 10th anniversary of Will on the Hill, this uniquely Washington event which has raised millions for the education and community outreach programs ($400,000 this year) of the Washington Shakespeare Theatre. It is one of the fun nights in the theatre where members of congress let down their hair, so to speak, and perform in an original play that often makes fun of themselves.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)

This years play, Speak the Speech, I Pray You! Written by the talented Peter Byrne and Directed by Alan Paul, was no exception to the rule. It was a take of on Romeo and Juliet, funny and timely and the readings by the members of Congress were spot on. The cast was led by Emmy Award winning (The West Wing) actor Richard Schiff and Tony Award nominee Veanne Cox.

Members of Congress included Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Representatives’ Shelley Berkley (D-NV) who is in the midst of what looks like a winning senate race, Gerald Connelly (D-VA), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Peter Petri (R-WI), Mike McIntyre (D-NC) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). As always the cast included D.C.’s CFO Natwar Gandhi. This year there was even an Englishman, The Honourable Ian Liddell-Grainger MP, Member of the Parliament for Bridgwater and West Somerset.

The amazing Shakespeare Theatre Company has been led for the past 25 years by Artistic Director and Director Extraordinaire Michael Kahn. This year they have been honored with a Tony Award for best regional theatre which will be presented during the Tony Awards broadcast on June 10th in New York. I am sure Michael will enjoy that and one can only hope that he will get to interact with host Neil Patrick Harris as I think they would make a great comedy team. Maybe Michael will invite Neil to DC to either act in one of his plays or do an interview with him which Michael is so great at doing. That would attract a whole new audience to the Shakespeare Theatre.

Dan Katz (Williams and Connolly LLP) and Congressman Mike McIntyre (D-NC) (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Dan Katz (Williams and Connolly LLP) and Congressman Mike McIntyre (D-NC)

The production couldn’t be produced and raise the kind of money it does without the hard work of so many community supporters of the theatre. This years Committee Co-Chairs were Bernie McKay from Intuitand Steve Ryan, from McDermott Will and Emeryand they did a yeoman’s job. Corporate sponsors included The Hill, Intuit, MapHook, McDermott Will and Emery, Patton Boggs LLP, and CoStar Group.

To showcase the work of the education department at the Shakespeare the program began with the students from Dr. Henry Wise Jr. High School performing the act 4, scene 1 one from Much Ado About Nothing. The kids were nothing less than amazing.

The Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) is one of Washington D.C.’s real treasures. For anyone interested in finding out more about their education programs or their 2012/2013 season just go online at You will never regret it.

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