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Hundreds of theater companies nationwide staged readings of Dustin Lance Black's play "8" to commemorate the date of Aug. 4. That's when, two years ago, U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker overturned California's amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Both Black, an Academy Award-winning screenwriter, and Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank were to take center stage Saturday night in Salt Lake City for a reading of "8" at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.

But Black was a no-show due to a scheduling conflict.

Frank is the Democratic congressman who made history July 7 when he married partner James Ready to become the first openly gay, legally married elected representative in U.S. history.

Despite Black's absence, it was a heady evening for Utah's gay community at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.

Johann Jacobs, executive director of Ballet West, attended with his partner of 42 years. "It's always of interest to me to see how the arts deal with a controversial issue and broaden the community's psyche."

Black's play, "8," performed by a local cast, was a rallying cry to put fear and prejudice on trial and work toward a day when "America will be more American" by ending discrimination against gay and lesbians, actor Mark Fossen said in the play as part of his portrayal of attorney David Boies.

In the absence of Black, Equality Utah Executive Director Brandie Balken acted as a moderator in a Q&A session with Frank.

Frank said that although Republicans in Congress want to keep the issue of gay rights as partisan as possible, the tide in favor of same-sex marriage and an end to discrimination against LGBT people is close at hand as long as people who advocate for their rights don't make defeat a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"People ask me why have I made this a partisan issue. I tell them I didn't make this a partisan issue. The Republicans make it a partisan issue," Frank said.

He said America's left should learn from the Tea Party and work to elect those who represent their views.

"I don't think I've ever seen a voter-registration booth at an Occupy demonstration."

The staged reading boasted a Who's Who of local Utah actors in a production by Plan-B Theatre Company, organized by company producing director Jerry Rapier.

Black's "8" has received celebrity-studded staged readings on both coasts, including a Broadway reading that took place in September and a Los Angeles reading in March.

Plan-B's reading showcased, among others, Utah actor Jason Tatom as Walker, and X96 radio host Bill Allred.

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