The Studio’s Mead Theatre in D.C. was about to open “FBI Lovebirds: UnderCovers,” with Dean Cain and Kristy Swanson (once Superman and the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer respectively) as disgraced FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. The dialogue came straight from the pair’s texts, which, as we all know, revealed both their romantic (and unethical) affair while strongly suggesting “deep state” plans to prevent Donald Trump’s rise to the Presidency
The team behind the project, Unreported Story Society, had rented out the Mead, one of the spaces in D.C.’s very rich and very successful—and very liberal, like most theaters—Studio Theatre. Yesterday, however, the production announced in an email alert that Studio has canceled its contract to host the performance. Here is Studio’s statement:
“Studio Theatre has cancelled its contract with third-party rental client Unreported Story Society. Media reports have made us aware of undisclosed details about the event and have generated open and violent threats against the theater and event participants. Studio has an institutional responsibility to consider the safety of our staff, patrons, community, event organizers and attendees. These concerns must be paramount.”
Right. I don’t buy the explanation, I don’t believe it, and I don’t respect it.
Those “undisclosed details” were that the same conservative activists behind the anti-abortion documentary “Gosnell,” which was screened at the White House, were behind the production. “FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers,” was to be directed by Phelim McAleer, a conservative artist who has co-written and produced political films about abortion, fracking and environmentalism with his wife, Ann McElhinney.
“We are going to show the mainstream media and Hollywood that they can no longer push the Russia collusion hoax and force them to acknowledge how the Deep State, DC Swamp tried to destroy the Trump candidacy and presidency,” reads the crowdfunding page named after “Unreported Story Society,” the production company that McAleer set up to mount the show.
Once the Studio became aware that the play would be anti-“resistance” and pro-Trump, although it apparently is fact, not fiction since the dialogue is entirely from the actual texts, it became unpalatable. I assume that Studio got complaints from its board, donors and overwhelmingly Democratic subscribers because the play had a conservative tilt.
Can’t have that!
If there were, in fact, real threats made (personally, this sounds to my ear like a cover story to avoid saying that the play was cancelled once the Studio found out that Unreported Story Society were actually a cadre of evil Trump supporters), then that means the threats came from the Left, just like threats keep conservative views from being aired on so many college campuses. If theaters are going to bow to the heckler’s veto and efforts at content censorship via threats, then free expression as well as art is endangered.
I do not believe that if this was a progressive-agenda friendly production, like, say, the NYC “Julius Caesar” production that depicted the staged and bloody assassination of a Trump clone, the Studio would have been so eager to cave., but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Studio is just run by weenies—there are a lot of them in the theater world, and courage is not in abundant supply. In ethical theater, you do what you have to to protect the production, but you make sure the show, any show, goes on.
If this were the late American Century Theater, I would have insisted as artistic director on the show going up, threats or not. Anyone who knows me knows that’s true. Our theater also produced—and I directed— works from all ends of the political spectrum, including socialist agitprop. If theater won’t stand up for its controversial and politically unpopular works, then it will devolve into “The Lion King,” Shakespeare revivals and fluff.
Come to think of t, that’s pretty much where live theater is now.