Jane, a scarf around her shoulders, works out a dance scene.
Mabel enters the room from backstage, a plastic container filled with snickerdoodles in hand. The cookies are a hit with cast and crew.
So begins a rehearsal for the play dozens of pastors have labeled “gross pornography” and a Christmas-season affront to Christian values.
“The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” opens Thursday at CitySpace, a small, spare theater in the basement of the Civic Center Music Hall.
Fifteen years after Oklahoma City endured a costly legal battle over efforts to suppress the Oscar-winning film “The Tin Drum” on grounds it was obscene, elected officials presiding over the city's economic renaissance are keeping their distance from this controversy.
In the long run, that may be to the city's benefit.
Threats to the arts are a “powerful game-changer” as cities work to attract investments that produce good jobs and sustain growth, said Scott Hamilton, executive director of the Cimarron Alliance.
“Companies don't want to come to a state or a city that doesn't support the arts,” he said.
Paul Rudnick's play opened in New York in 1998. It has homosexual characters, includes simulated homosexual sex, and satirizes biblical stories, including the creation story.
The original included full-frontal nudity, though that's not part of director Rachel Irick's production.
Playing off the story of Adam and Eve, Adam encounters Steve in the Garden of Eden.
Later, a lesbian couple, Jane and Mabel, insist they were Earth's original inhabitants.
State Rep. Dan Fisher, a Republican who is a pastor in Yukon, first said Christian leaders would pressure city leaders to block the production.
Opponents later backed away from that, calling instead on the Oklahoma City Theatre Company, a community theater, to cancel the production.
But in a letter addressed to elected leaders including Mayor Mick Cornett and Gov. Mary Fallin, pastors from the metro area and cities, including Tulsa and Enid, asked why it was necessary “to mock the Bible in the Christmas season?”
“With 85 percent of the citizens of Oklahoma identifying themselves as Christians, why is it necessary to profane Jesus Christ?” they asked.
They also called on Fallin and the Legislature to cease funding for the Oklahoma Arts Council, even though the Arts Council rejected a request to help fund the play.
Fallin's office issued a letter saying “no state tax dollars have been allotted” to support the play. The letter states that Fallin's office has no authority over city government.
“She suggests you contact the Oklahoma Theater Company and explain why their decision to parody and subvert Biblical tales during the holiday season is offensive,” it reads.
Prayer vigil planned
Jim Brown, the Civic Center Music Hall's facility manager, was asked to respond to the pastors by the mayor's office.
In his letter, Brown said city officials were constitutionally prohibited from turning away productions based on their content.
The city and Civic Center are “required by law to rent space to individuals and organizations so long as they comply with our policies and ordinances and have paid the established rental fees,” Brown wrote.
Brown said Wednesday that he had responded to about 50 inquiries regarding the play by mail, email and telephone.
Irick said tickets for the first weekend were nearly sold out.
Pastors who oppose the play are organizing a prayer vigil outside the Civic Center on Friday, the play's official opening night.
A counter demonstration is being organized by JD Bergner, a community theater enthusiast who had several minor roles in Oklahoma City Theatre Company's first production this season, “In the Heat of the Night.”
The competing demonstrations caused worries for Hamilton, who was concerned how a flamboyant, raucous scene might reflect on the city's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
Hamilton said the Cimarron Alliance was encouraging demonstrators who support the play to “go as themselves, no signs, be quiet and peaceful.”
“We need to not meet rhetoric with rhetoric,” he said.