Production of 'The Laramie Project' planned for Tyler appears to be in jeopardy once more

Posted on 03 May 2010 at 4:15pm

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A few weeks ago we reported that the Tyler Civic Theatre’s board had voted a second time to allow a production of “The Laramie Project” at the theater in June. The second vote came after some members of the board, which had unanimously approved the production in March, received letters from citizens objecting to the play. After “The Laramie Project” was removed from the theater’s Web site, about 100 supporters rallied outside the theater while the board took its second vote. Now, despite that vote, it appears as though the production may be in jeopardy once more. Here’s an update I received Friday from Troy Carlyle, chair of Project TAG (Tyler Area Gays):

We’re having ongoing concerns with the [Tyler] Civic Theater, including the facts that they’ve waited 2 ½ weeks to put anything about the play back onto their website, removed it from the front page (now you have to click a link), removed the TAG (Tyler Area Gays) logo, and even removed the word “gay”! Further, they’re considering reneging on their agreement that TAG would share in the proceeds (even though we are underwriting the play and they are receiving half of the sale of each $20 ticket). And I haven’t mentioned concerns we’ve already resolved, such as interference with cast selection, and the fact that “The Laramie Project” was removed from the TCT website in the first place.

But none of these issues are in and of themselves, major. Rather they are symptomatic of a deep-seated homophobia within the TCT board of directors, best expressed by their president Ray Deal. “This theater isn’t for [gay] people like you,” he explained in a telephone conversation.

This put us in an uncomfortable position, basically cutting off further communication between myself and their board president, at a time when I had hoped this play might have been the first of many collaborations between Tyler Area Gays and the Tyler Civic Theatre. Now, however, “The Laramie Project” is looking like a first and last effort. This puts us in an awkward position for many reasons, because we had already sent messages out to hundreds of our supporters that they should buy season tickets at the Civic Theatre, and now we’ve been told that those people will likely not be welcome there.

As of now, we’re still involved with the play and  hoping for no further “surprises.” We’ve been told we’ll have to wait two further weeks before the TCT board makes a decision whether Tyler Area Gays will participate in the play’s revenues. If they vote us down, we may take that as a signal that it’s time to remove ourselves from “The Laramie Project,” and this would have the likely result of shutting the play down. Believe me, that’s the last thing we want to see happen. We’re all just praying there are no more surprises, and that we can produce this play without further interference.

The reason we’re staying in it for now is the hopes that their president wasn’t speaking for their board, and that maybe, in spite of all the signals they’ve sent us, the Tyler Civic Theater doesn’t really despise the gay community.

In a Project TAG newsletter sent out Saturday, Carlyle said he was leaving it up to individual members whether to support the production. I checked a few minutes ago and it looks like “The Laramie Project” has now been moved to the front page of the theater’s Web site — likely in response to Carlyle’s concerns — although I still don’t see the word “gay” anywhere. Tickets can be purchased by going here.

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