Atlanta’s Out Front Theatre Company’s production of “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” opens on April 27, but Paul Rudnick’s 1998 silly comedy that recasts Bible stories with all gay characters is being protested as blasphemous. The outraged in this case is the conservative Catholic group America Needs Fatima, whose members are particularly offended by the spoof’s portrayal of the Virgin Mary as a lesbian. It has an online petition demanding that Out Front’s Artistic Director Paul Conroy cancel the production.
Sure. Like that’s going to happen.
“I fear God’s wrath will fall upon us if reparation is not made,” the hysterical screed concludes. Over 40,000 hysterics have signed it. Yes, I’m sure that God has nothing better to do than to punish humanity for a theatrical production of a 20 year-old comedy in Atlanta. The group then threatens to oppose the play “loudly, peacefully, and legally in as large a protest as we can help make possible” if the production goes forward. Idiocy, of course. Last I heard, nobody is forcing anyone to go to see the play, and the First Amendment is pretty clear about the ability of the law to censor performances based on content. The contention from the religious right in this case mirrors the Left’s fervent efforts at the moment to censor speakers they don’t agree with and “hate speech.”
If you don’t think that you will enjoy a play, the remedy is not to go see it. Simple as that. Trying to interfere with the production in any way, or to prevent those who want to see a production in which Adam and Eve become Adam and Steve, is unethical. It is also directly contrary to the principles the United States was founded to ensure.
Okay, that settles that.
Now about Out Front Theater Company….
The company’s mission statement on its website says that its “exists to tell stories of the LGBTQIA experience and community, through theatre and the performing arts, to the greater Atlanta area.”
That’s fine, a perfectly acceptable mission. However, in a New York Times article this week, the company is described as one which which stages shows “created only by people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.” Since that reporter interviewed the artistic director for the article, I am assuming that this characterization is correct; if it isn’t the Times has some explaining to do.
That mission is NOT fine. In fact, only producing works by individuals who are LGBTQIA is pure discrimination and bigotry. (It is also hardly necessary, as my own experience in the theater suggest that gays et al. make up 75% or more of the artists involved.) Imagine a company that would only produce works by white playwrights, or male, or Christian, and how such restrictions would be received. Occasionally an argument can be made for a company to champion a group of playwrights and artists who have been historically marginalized by the theater community and industry, as in the case of female playwrights. Even then, rejecting a worthy play on feminist topics solely because the author is male would be discrimination per se, and unethical.
No such argument can be made to justify an LGBTQIA-authors-only policy however: it’s difficult to find playwrights who are NOT gay. Wikipedia has pages on 341 prominent gay playwrights, including giants like Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, Noel Coward, William Inge, Oscar Wilde, Thornton Wilder, Lanford Wilson, and Terence McNally. That list doesn’t even include gay lyricists and musical comedy composers, like Stephen Sondheim. Lorenz Hart, Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin and William Finn. Moreover, there is more anti-straight discrimination in the theater than antigay discrimination by far.
Gay artists embracing tribalism and anti-gay bias is self-destructive, and will only harden the biases of others against them. If the Times description is accurate (it is the Times, so that’s a real “if”), the Out Front Theater Company’s policy also violates the Georgia Fair Employment Practices Act and federal law.
Pointer and Facts: Huffington Post