Amid protests, Anaheim theater is "actually talking about the safety of our cast"

OC Weekly, 6/28/11 [hat tip to Casey Long]

In "Jerry Springer: The Opera," a musical production premiering on July 9 at Anaheim Hills' Chance Theater, a fat, gay Jesus gets fondled by Eve, and Mary is introduced to the audience with a chorus of, "Raped by an angel, raped by God!"   Some Catholic groups aren't too pleased.   Over the past week, the award-winning, 49-seat theater has been bombarded by more than 1,500 e-mails protesting the raunchy, expletive-ridden play, which had successful runs in London and New York. The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property is leading the campaign, urging Catholics to send out the messages. Oanh Nguyen, artistic director for Chance Theater, says the play is not meant to be a mockery of Christianity, but rather an analysis of pop culture.  "It is offensive," Nguyen admits. "It's X-rated without a doubt.... But at the same time, I think it's a great musical. And it's funny as all heck.  Ultimately, it's a satire. I don't think the focus is really on religion. It's more on the value of reality shows like Jerry Springer. Are these shows holding up a mirror to parts of society we'd like to get forget, or are these shows exploiting these people?  We would not put anything on that stage that we didn't believe has something interesting to say."  Nguyen says most of the e-mails they've gotten have been from outside Orange County and even the U.S., but he's received angry phone calls from local Christians as well.  "It's sort of exciting and scary," he says. "We're actually talking about the safety of our cast.  At the same time, they have a right to free speech. It's gonna be interesting. If we don't take the risk, who will?"


In London, courting controversy with a 9/11-themed 'theatrical spectacular'

London Evening Standard, 6/27/11

Award-winning director Rupert Goold is to court controversy with a theatrical spectacular exploring the legacy of 9/11 on its 10th anniversary.  He is working with international writers Tony Kushner, John Logan and Paul Laverty to produce the show. Iraqis and non-playwrights are also involved in the show.  Decade will be premiered next door to a building in St Katharine Docks which was used as London's World Trade Centre -- echoing the terrorists' Manhattan target -- from September 1 to October 15.  "There's a big thing about taste in this piece. One has to be sensitive," Goold said. "But I hope people won't be offended. Theatre has to address this sort of thing."  Goold, who runs his own theatre company Headlong and has won awards for shows including Enron and Macbeth, added: "It is an attempt to sift through the millions of things that have happened since, emotionally, politically, spiritually."  The structure will be inspired by the dance work of the late avant-garde choreographer Pina Bausch with a cast of around a dozen including Lia Williams.


Commentary: The thin line between artistic necessity and exploitation

Alexis Soloski, The Guardian Theatre Blog, 6/28/11

There have been [many] attempts to respond dramatically to one of the most significant world events many of us have experienced. Indeed, even by the first anniversary, enough playwrights had turned their keyboards to the topic that a festival entitled "Brave New World: American Theater Responds to 9/11" could offer a 50-play lineup. With such a track record, there's nothing the least bit shocking or provocative about announcing a new 9/11 play. Yet director Rupert Goold might just make the subject dangerous again in Decade, a new piece marking the 10-year anniversary of the attacks. The main selling point apparently [is] that the show will be "immersive".  As an adopted New Yorker, the prospect of an immersive theatrical retelling of 9/11 makes me somewhat uncomfortable. Which is not to say that I quibble with Goold's right to create it.  But the announcement returns me to that hoary question of whether or not there are places art shouldn't go, scenes it shouldn't stage.  Yet it's worth remembering that the earliest surviving play we have, Aeschylus's The Persians, is a story of a disastrous military rout, staged from the point of view of the Greeks' enemies -- it doesn't get a lot more provocative than that. Because here's the thing: calamity can make for some pretty remarkable drama. But the line between artistic necessity and exploitation can often feel terribly thin -- which, I guess, is why we're unlikely to have a really excellent Holocaust musical, though people will keep trying to make one.


Commentary: Is Utah ready for The Book of Mormon musical?

Brittany Green, Fox 13 News, 6/19/11

The Book of Mormon musical won nine Tony Awards amid controversy in and outside Utah. The satirical production has caused outrage among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, leading many to wonder if the show will ever come to Utah.  The show, created by South Park masterminds Trey Parker and Matt Stone, offers a cynical view on religion and faith as it tells the story of two Mormon missionaries going to a war-torn village in Uganda. It has received rave reviews from theatre-goers, but scathing comments about its negative view towards the LDS faith and about inaccuracies in the telling of the history of the formation of the church.  Charles Morey, the artistic director of the Pioneer Theatre Company for 24 years, likens the controversy surrounding the play to that of Rent, a critically-acclaimed show that addresses the AIDS epidemic and is currently playing at the Pioneer.  Morey says that crowds are filling seats in the theatre to see the show and thinks history will repeat itself should The Book of Mormon musical hit the stage here in Utah.  "We're getting a young audience, a vibrant audience they're excited that we're doing it, they're excited to be here and they're responding very vocally, there's an energy in this theater that is quite remarkable," said Morey. "There is actually a similarity between Rent and The Book of Mormon. They both have a big heart. They really are very much about love and acceptance, I think."


Commentary: Why Death of Klinghoffer opera no longer sparks controversy

Out West Arts blog, 6/26/11

Unquestionably, the highlight of this year's opera festival in St. Louis has been the return of John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer to the American stage 20 years after controversial runs in both New York and San Francisco. An opera on the subject of the 1985 murder of Leon Klinghoffer by Palestinian terrorists was too hot to handle at the time [and] Adams' opera vanished from sight. Why Klinghoffer has generated relatively little controversy during its resurfacing here is St. Louis is the more interesting question. Opera Theater of Saint Louis spent a great deal of time and effort preparing the community for the production. The lack of controversy this time around may also have stemmed from a gradual reintroduction of the work to the public over the last few years through a number of concert presentations of the opera around the world. Or it may be that we Americans have changed. The understanding and awareness of terrorism and its perpetrators is very different for the vast majority of Americans since 1991. That nagging question of how and why a group of people in the world hate so much, and specifically hate us so much, that they are willing to sacrifice everything to express that hate has far deeper resonance in the U.S. in 2011 than in 1991. The larger implications of a murder taking place half-way around the world now seems more personal than just another episode in an ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. Terrorism may not have changed in 20 years, but our view of the world has and I would argue that Klinghoffer has as much to say about those questions and feelings now as it did then.

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