Beneath crosses etched in lights on downtown skyscrapers, about 30 Christians opposed to a play at the Civic Center Music Hall gathered Friday night to pray and sing carols.
Across the Civic Center plaza, about 15 people supporting “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” also sang carols. They huddled together, shoulders hunched, in 20-degree weather.
Both groups were there to express their views on the play's opening night.
Opponents object to the playwright Paul Rudnick's biblical satire, propelled by homosexual characters inhabiting stories such as the fall from grace in the Garden of Eden and the Nativity.
Produced by Oklahoma City Theatre Company, “Most Fabulous Story” runs through Dec. 22 in CitySpace, a small theater in the basement of the Civic Center.
Thursday's preview performance drew a small protest of a half-dozen or so out-of-state Catholics who held signs outside the Civic Center as patrons arrived.
Friday night, Stephen Black of First Stone Ministries led opponents in prayer. Black said he was molested as a child and engaged in homosexual sex as a teenager and young man.
First Stone's mission is to lead people to “freedom from homosexuality and sexual brokenness through Jesus Christ.”
In his prayer, Black, 52, asked “that salvation would start with us.”
“Thank you for delivering me from homosexuality,” he said. “Start with Oklahoma City, Lord.”
Play opponents then broke up into groups of five or six and locked arms as they prayed aloud.
JD Bergner, who organized the counterdemonstration to the prayer vigil, said his group gathered outside the Civic Center “in support of our friends in there putting on this play.”
Both groups were short of their attendance objectives early in the frigid evening.
Pastor Steve Kern of Olivet Baptist Church had predicted 200 to 300 people would attend.
Bergner's group had promises from about 100 people who responded to a Facebook invitation.
Both groups could be heard singing “O Come, All Ye Faithful” across the plaza.
Dozens of pastors signed a letter objecting to the play and calling on elected leaders to speak against it. Labeling it “gross pornography,” they suggested producers and cast could be brought up on obscenity charges.
Critics also contended the play received taxpayer support and questioned how it could be tolerated in a publicly funded facility such as the Civic Center.
However, the Oklahoma Arts Council, the theater group's source of public money, denied the group's request for funding. The city responded that it was compelled by law to rent facilities to any group that pays its rent and follows the rules.
Rick Tepker, a University of Oklahoma law professor who reviewed the pastors' letter, said he could find nothing to show that a prosecution for obscenity was “possible or plausible.”
Oklahoma City Theatre Company is a resident community theater company at the Civic Center.
In addition to “Most Fabulous Story,” the six productions in its 2013-14 season include “In the Heat of the Night” and an annual Native American New Play Festival.
“Most Fabulous Story” opened off-Broadway in 1998 and was described as a comedic retelling of the Bible “from a flamboyantly gay perspective.”
The original's full-frontal nudity was dropped from the production.
In the play, Adam and Steve meet in the Garden of Eden. The couple leave the Garden only to encounter lesbians Jane and Mabel, who insist they were Earth's original inhabitants.
Act 2 is set in contemporary New York City at Christmastime.