A state representative from Yukon says a play being staged in Oklahoma City that satirizes biblical stories — employing homosexual relationships and a fair share of nudity in the telling — is a “direct frontal attack” on Christians.
Rep. Dan Fisher, a Republican who is senior pastor of Yukon's Trinity Baptist Church, said Friday that a group of pastors and legislators will pressure city leaders to block it.
The Oklahoma City Theatre Company's Christmas-season production “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” opens Dec. 5 in CitySpace, a small theater in the basement of the Civic Center Music Hall. It runs through Dec. 22.
“There's a difference between satire and pornography,” Fisher said. “This is pornography.”
The New York Times reviewed “Most Fabulous Story” when it opened off-Broadway in 1998, describing Paul Rudnick's play as a comedic retelling of the Bible “from a flamboyantly gay perspective,” with full-frontal nudity.
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.
Oklahoma City touts itself as a big-league city with a vibrant urban culture, said Scott Hamilton, executive director of the Cimarron Alliance.
As such, it cannot afford to be in the business of banning literary works, said Hamilton, whose alliance advocates on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Oklahomans.
“Most Fabulous Story” is a funny play, Hamilton said. “It certainly has a place on the stage, in New York and here in Oklahoma City.”
Theater has deep roots
Oklahoma City Theatre Company is a community theater founded in 1999 by University of Oklahoma graduate Richard Nelson, who was its first artistic director.
The company stages most of its productions in Civic Center Music Hall's versatile CitySpace, a black-box theater that seats fewer than 100 patrons.
Its larger productions, such as next spring's “Jesus Christ Superstar,” are presented in the 286-seat Freede Little Theatre, a proscenium-style venue.
Artistic Director Rachel Irick said homosexual themes and nudity are nothing new to OKCTC.
Past productions have included “Bug,” by “August: Osage County” playwright Tracy Letts — nudity — and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” the story of a transgendered rock star staged as a cabaret performance.
In the case of “Fabulous,” Irick said: “We don't have any plans to use total nudity.”
Of the portrayal of the two homosexual couples at the center of Rudnick's play, she said, “Thankfully that's becoming less and less controversial.”
The play's biblical satire is, like satire in any setting, “a what-if kind of a spin” on the underlying story, Irick said.
Rudnick's works include “Jeffrey,” a 1993 play about living in the shadow of AIDS. Frank Rich wrote that year in the Times that the playwright was “a born showbiz wit with perfect pitch for priceless one-liners.”
OKCTC is a resident company at the taxpayer-funded Civic Center. Its sponsors include the Kirkpatrick Foundation and the Oklahoma Arts Council.
Executive Director Amber Sharples said the Arts Council reviewed the script for “Most Fabulous Story” and decided not to support it because of its content.
State law forbids the Arts Council from supporting productions that include simulated sex acts, she said, and the script for “Most Fabulous Story” includes such scenes.
Oklahoma City Theatre Company asked the Arts Council for $70,775 to support the six productions in its 2013-14 season.
Funding request reduced
The Arts Council granted OKCTC $18,000 to support the five productions besides “Most Fabulous Story.” They include “In the Heat of the Night” and an annual Native American New Play Festival.
Jim Couch, Oklahoma City's city manager, said Friday the city cannot pick and choose among groups that contract to use city facilities, such as the Civic Center theaters, based on the content of their productions, as long as it is legal.
Some 300,000 patrons attend events each year at the Civic Center, from Broadway shows like the current musical “Godspell” to ballet and weddings, said Jennifer Lindsey-McClintock, a spokeswoman for the city's Parks Department.
Oklahoma City-area playgoers have seen Rudnick's comedies in the past, including “I Hate Hamlet” at Jewel Box Theatre in 2010 and “Jeffrey” at OU in 1997.
Oklahoma City University's OCUedge staged a dramatic reading, rather than a full production, of “Most Fabulous Story” in 2011, said D. Lance Marsh, associate professor in the Theatre School.
Fisher said community standards should govern whether city officials allow OKCTC to produce the play. Oklahoma City is primarily a Christian community and residents live by Christian moral values, the Yukon pastor said.
“For some reason it's OK to demean and besmirch the name of Christ and the faith of Christians,” Fisher said.
Irick, the OKCTC artistic director, said she was “grateful that we live in a free country where our freedom of expression is protected under the law.”
“Everyone in our community regardless of lifestyle or religious belief should have an opportunity to be represented,” she said.
If we are to realize all that Oklahoma City can become, we must do so with a constant eye toward diversity and inclusivity.”
executive director of the Cimarron Alliance