Art4PJ bringing controversial play to Dallas

Posted on 22 Apr 2010 at 3:17pm
By DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Cathedral of Hope to host 5 performances of LA production of McNally’s ‘Corpus Christi’

CAST IN CONTROVERSY | The cast and crew of NIc Arnzen’s production of the Terrence McNally play "Corpus Christi," is also filming a documentary about the production and the controversy that tends to follow it wherever it goes. The troupe will perform the play five times in Dallas from June 4 through June 6. (Photo by EJ Camp, all rights reserved by 108 Productions)

Art for Peace and Justice is bringing a Los Angeles production of the Terrence McNally play "Corpus Christi" to Dallas for five performances in June.

Tim Seelig, director of Art4PJ, which is a program of Hope for Peace and Justice, said the play will run at Cathedral of Hope June 4-6 for five performances.

The play casts Jesus and his disciples as gay men living in McNally’s hometown, Corpus Christi. Since its 1998 limited-run, off-Broadway premiere in New York, it has consistently attracted controversy. But the protests that have followed the play wherever it has been staged have often  only served to increase public interest in the play.

Nic Arnzen is director of the Los Angeles-based production that will be coming to Dallas. He said this week the production has played around the country and in Great Britain after beginning at an L.A. Metropolitan Community Church. It has run continuously in various venues for almost five years, he said.

This is the first time the production has come  to Texas, where the play is set, Arnzen said.

The cast is also working on a documentary highlighting the controversy the play generates while promoting its theme of tolerance. Filming should continue through the Dallas performances for a feature they hope to submit to next year’s Sundance Film Festival.

ocal interest in the play began when church leaders in Stephenville found out that a Tarleton State University student was producing an excerpt of the play as an assignment for his advanced directing class.

That class project was never meant to be open to the public, but protests and threats of violence forced its cancellation.

After the cancellation at the school, a group in Fort Worth began working to bring the student production to the Metroplex at the end of the semester.

An offer of a venue by the Rose Marine Theater in Fort Worth was rescinded after protests that included a threat on Facebook.

QCinema, Fort Worth’s 10-year old LGBT film festival, formed a new group this spring called QLive. With all of the publicity surrounding the play, they decided to premiere this summer with a production of this play.

Tim Seelig

They planned to use the Rose Marine Theater as well. That venue did not rescind its invitation to QLive. But Todd Camp said QLive is waiting for word on the student production before announcing their own plans.

Despite McNally’s other successes, "Corpus Christi" has never been a huge  hit.

Unlike many of his other works, it has never run on Broadway.

McNally is better known for a number of his other plays and musicals, many with gay themes.

When "The Ritz," which takes place in a gay bathhouse, opened on Broadway in 1975, it was one of the first Broadway shows to unapologetically portray openly gay men on a Broadway stage.

McNally has won Tony awards for best book of a musical for "Ragtime" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman" and for best play for "Master Class" and "Love! Valour! Compassion!" He was nominated for best book of a musical for "The Full Monty."

Seelig said that the L.A. production of "Corpus Christi" that is coming to Cathedral of Hope is usually staged in smaller venues. To retain the accustomed intimacy, they will limit sales to about 200 tickets per performance even though the Cathedral could seat hundreds more.   

"Corpus Christi," Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. June 4-6 at 7:30 p.m. Matinees Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. $30-50. 214-351-1432. www.h4pj.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 23, 2010.

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