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Diocese says no to gay-themed Civic Players show

By BERL SCHWARTZ
The Catholic Diocese of Lansing has withdrawn permission for the Lansing Civic Players to stage a gay-themed play at Catholic Central High School in January.
The diocese objects to the “subject matter, theme and content” of “Breaking the Code,” Michael Diebold, director of communications for the diocese, said. Diebold also said that the diocese objected to the play’s “sponsorship” by the Michigan Triangle Foundation, a Detroit-based gay-rights organization.
“Breaking the Code” is the story of Alan Turing, a British-born mathematician who broke Nazi codes during World War II. Turing was a closeted homosexual who was convicted on morals charges in 1952. He killed himself two years later, when he was 41. The play, written by Hugh Whitemore, was nominated for three Tony awards in 1988.
Beverly Gross, president of the Civic Players’ board of directors, had no comment

One of 12 photos of Jesus in the company of homosexuals that make up “Ecce Homo,” by Swedish photographer Elizabeth Olhson. Their showing at Stockholm’s Uppsala Cathedral caused an uproar in the Vatican.

on the diocese’s reasons. She said the group was “looking into options” for staging the play, which was scheduled to open Jan. 18.
Tom (T.E.) Klunzinger, an actor, director and playwright active in the Civic Players, said he understood “somebody objected to the diocese” about the production.
“The season brochure has been out for six months now,” Klunzinger said. “The capsule description (of “Breaking the Code”) has the ‘h’ word – homosexual – in it.”

He called the decision “inconsiderate and mean-spirited … Performance space is very tight.”
Diebold defended the church’s decision as “standing up for our beliefs and values.”
He referred to the Civic Players as a “guest.” However, Klunzinger and others said the theatrical organization has a contract with Catholic Central and pays rent to it when productions are staged there.
Diebold said the diocese was “just made aware” of the issue Wednesday (Dec. 19). The Civic Players was informed of the decision two days later.
Diebold said “adult language and content issues” in the play also raised concerns for the diocese since the venue is a high school.
However, other Civic Players productions at Catholic Central have contained adult language and content, such as “Emma’s Child,” by Kristine Thatcher, which was staged there several years ago.
Another issue was the involvement of the Michigan Triangle Foundation. Diebold said the diocese objected to the organization’s “sponsorship” of the play because the organization “advocates positions contrary to the teaching of Catholic theology.”
According to Jeff Montgomery, executive director of Triangle, the organization was not a sponsor. He said Triangle was set to sell tickets for the dress rehearsal as a fund-raiser for itself.
“The last thing we ever want to do is bring a negative consequence on a group that aligns itself with us,” Montgomery said.
He encouraged the Civic Players to look elsewhere for a venue for its productions, most of which have been staged at Catholic Central in recent years.
“I hope someone from the Civic Players realizes this is not going to be a one-time problem and should begin to look for other venues so it won’t have to worry about Mother Church,” he said.
Montgomery said the decision “continues to show how out of touch, mean-spirited and in denial the church is.”
“It’s so typical of the Catholic Church to have this kind of uninformed and unfortunate reaction. If they’re worried about the theme of the play, I guess what they must be worried about is the story of a hero and a patriot,” he added. “I guess I’m a little bit surprised that this is the vehicle they choose to use in this way. It’s an incredible story they should want to be associated with. I don’t want to be too coy about this and presume to say that I know their entire thinking. The obvious thinking must be that Turing was a closet homosexual and after his estimable service to government, he found himself facing morals charges.
“It doesn’t surprise me that it would be skittish about presenting a unsympathetic view of state-sponsored harassment of gay people. Perhaps that aspect of this story hits too close to home for them.”
In addition to finding another venue for this production, Lansing Civic Players will also have to decide whether continuing to stage plays at Catholic Central may result in an adverse reaction from the gay community.


 

 

 

 

 

 

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