Arts Seen – week of Nov. 28 2013

A U.S. federal lawsuit for marriage equality will play out onstage this Saturday November 30 in a special one-night-only event. Theatre Transit (theatretransit.ca) was granted the Alberta première rights to 8 a new play by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black ( Milk J. Edgar ) and is co-producing it with Hillhurst United Church . The play is a docudrama about Supreme Court trials surrounding Proposition 8 which was passed by a narrow majority of voters in California and took away the freedom of gays and lesbians to marry. Written by Black for the American Foundation for Equal Rights and Broadway Impact 8 uses actual courtroom transcripts and first-hand interviews to show both sides of the debate. “The goal of 8 is to show the world that marriage equality is a basic constitutional right and that those who would deny this basic freedom from loving committed couples have only vitriol and baseless hyperbole to fall back on” states Black at 8theplay.com . The website includes information on the play the case and past and present productions (including celebrity readings by the likes of George Clooney Brad Pitt Martin Sheen and Richard Dreyfuss).

Theatre Transit’s Carly McKee came across the opportunity to get the rights to 8 while watching YouTube. “I felt like it was a really important piece to bring to our community” she says adding that it’s good for Canadians to recognize what our U.S. neighbours have to go through to get the freedom we already have. The Calgary production features a volunteer cast of professional and emerging artists as well as members of the church and a representative of the legal community. Following the performance playwright and activist Pam Rocker will lead a panel discussion. As part of the agreement the play can only be produced as a one-time benefit in support of a LGBTQ charity — in this case 100 per cent of the proceeds will go to Camp fYrefly ( fyrefly.ualberta.ca ) . The event takes place at Hillhurst United Church at 8 p.m.

Red Phone Theatre is a relative newcomer to Calgary. The company was formed by Alan Johnson and James Wade about a year ago when they presented their first show Greetings from Sardineland after losing the lottery for a spot in the 2012 Calgary Fringe Festival. “We decided we had fun doing it” says Johnson. “Our hope with Red Phone is to give a lot of opportunities to emerging artists as well as to produce new work.” The duo has since brought Emma Sinclair on board and after better luck at the 2013 Calgary Fringe Festival with WILF Red Phone Theatre has a new show onstage at Motel until November 30 ( redphonetheatre.com ). Camille Pavlenko’s Straight On ’Til Morning is about a young woman suffering from memory loss who goes to a psychic and begins to tap into her past lives. So far the company’s plays have all shared a healthy dose of pop culture references from Sardineland ’s 1950s comic book scene to the WILF character who plays Call of Duty ’s Nazi Zombies to the new play’s nods to Peter Pan. Johnson says it’s not necessarily intentional but time will tell.