‘Corpus Christi’ controversy continues at another college

John Otte at Tarleton State University might have started a new college trend. For a class project he prepared an excerpt from the Terrence McNally play “Corpus Christi,” which presents Jesus as gay.

gallaudetNow Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. is presenting the play with some additional twists to rankle the radical right who protested the Texas production into cancellation for safety reasons. (A presentation of Otte’s class production in the Metroplex in a larger venue is still pending).

The show was just recently added to the theater department’s schedule.

While Otte’s production was simply a class project and presentation was not open to the public, the Gallaudet presentation is theater department presentation. The D.C. production will be performed three times. At Tarleton, the play was slated for one performance.

Gallaudet University is a school for the deaf. So in this production Jesus will be deaf and gay. And that added “imperfection” of hearing impairment in this presentation is sure to rile the homophobes who don’t believe that Jesus embraced anyone other than married, suburban heterosexuals.

The protesters in D.C. are at work again but the university is standing by its production.

So by threatening violence against a student in a directing class in a small school 70 miles southwest of Fort Worth, the right-wing haters in Stephenville have turned this relatively unknown and rarely performed play into a must-produce phenomenon for any theater company or college group that wants to prove its independence and avant garde credentials.

A story on Christian Newswire says, ” The lewd production was recently canceled at Tarleton State University in Texas due to peaceful protest.”

By peaceful, I assume they mean the threats of violence that were phoned or emailed to everyone from the president of the school for not knowing every student’s homework assignment to Dallas Voice for reporting on the play.

I’m looking forward even more to bringing Otte and company to Dallas.

—  David Taffet

Tarleton State University cancels performance of gay-themed play, citing safety concerns

So much for free expression.

The much-publicized performance of a gay-themed play at Tarleton State University, scheduled for Saturday morning, was canceled Friday night due to safety concerns, The Dallas Morning News reports.

Tarleton State President F. Dominic Dottavio issued a statement earlier Friday calling the play “offensive, crude and irreverent,” but adding that stopping the production would amount to a violation of free expression. However, the university issued a statement later saying the class’s professor canceled the play due to concerns about students’ safety and the need to maintain an orderly academic environment.

Also, Friday, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst issued a statement condemning the play, according to The Texas Tribune. Here’s what Dewhurst said:

“Every citizen is entitled to the freedom of speech, but no one should have the right to use government funds or institutions to portray acts that are morally reprehensible to the majority of Americans.

Texans don’t deserve to see their hard-earned tax money used to debase their religion. This lewd display runs completely contrary to the standards of scholastic excellence and common decency that we demand in our publicly-funded institutions for higher learning.”

—  John Wright

Letter to the editor from the president of Tarleton State University

The president of Tarleton State University sent this letter to the editor clarifying the school’s position on the controversy that has arisen about a class project that involved production of an except of the Terrence McNally play “Corpus Christi.” Click here for original story.

To the Editor:

In the past week, our community has heard and read passionate statements as a result of a student’s decision to present selected material from the play “Corpus Christi.”  The opinions expressed in the emails and phone calls received at Tarleton range from those declaring the play blasphemous and degrading to those stating the need for us to support the freedom of speech rights of the student.   Emotions surrounding the issue were heightened by some misunderstanding about Tarleton’s association with the production.  Please allow me to give some information.

  • The university does not endorse the play.
  • The play is not a University-sponsored production in the Fine Arts series at Tarleton.
  • The play is a project for a class.  It is not intended for the public any more than a student’s math assignment.

—  David Taffet

Early morning curtain time for controversial play for security

John Jordan Otte
John Jordan Otte

An excerpt from the gay-themed Terrence McNally play “Corpus Christi” will be presented at Tarleton State University at 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 27.  The production, originally set for afternoon, has been rescheduled for security reasons, and only friends, family and invited guests will be admitted.

The controversy began several weeks ago when members of the community in Stephenville heard  gay student John Jordan Otte has chosen the play as a project for his directing class.

Local preachers denounced the play from the pulpit. Letters to the editor of The Stephenville Empire Tribune claimed blasphemy. Callers flooded the school administration with complaints. None of those who complained claimed to have ever actually seen or read the play.

Otte said that he chose “Corpus Christi” because of its theme of tolerance, and he called McNally a hero of his.

Although the time has changed, the play was always scheduled to be presented in the small 95-seat theater and was never advertised to the public.

The administration has defended the play’s presentation on free speech and academic freedom grounds.

—  David Taffet

Does anti-gay protest at Tarleton State merit a response from the LGBT community?

Stephenville is about 106 miles from Dallas.
Stephenville is approximately 106 miles southwest of Dallas.

The Star-Telegram of Fort Worth is reporting that Tarleton State University police will need 50 extra local and state officers on Saturday, when student-director John Jordan Otte presents an excerpt from the gay-themed play “Corpus Christi” as a drama class project. As DV staffer David Taffet, who broke this story last week, has noted, the right-wingers in Stephenville are raising hell about the play, which depicts a gay Jesus.  They say the content is particularly offensive the week before Easter. And according to The S-T, they’re now planning to protest and “witness” in the parking lot outside the theater. So I’m just wondering out loud here, are any LGBT groups planning to make the 100-mile trek from Dallas? It’s a long drive, but doesn’t this situation warrant a show of support from the community in the nearest metropolitan area? Or in the interest of logistics and strategy, should we just ignore these nutjobs? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

—  John Wright

Drama continues for Tarleton student

John Jordan Otte
John Jordan Otte

Since my story last week about Tarleton State University student John Jordan Otte directing an excerpt of the Terrence McNally play “Corpus Christi,” pressure has persisted to stop the production.

Letters to the editor of The Stephenville Empire Tribune have continued to spew hatred.

Several of the actors in the class project have been forced to leave the play.

Another, a freshman whose father is a Baptist minister in Stephenville, refused to quit the production and was thrown out of his house. Otte has taken in the student and given him a place to live.

This morning on KRLD, host Jodie Dean ambushed Otte, asking whether he chose the play just to provoke controversy. Otte said that he did not, and Dean challenged him on that.

The play was chosen as a class assignment and will be presented one time in a theater that holds just 95 people. The excerpt from the play will be shown along with three other 45-minute productions. While open to the public, the show wasn’t meant to be advertised or promoted. It was intended to be seen mostly by friends and family of the actors.

Instead, word got out about the play, and the controversy erupted. The president of the university has issued a statement defending Otte’s freedom of speech.

I’m sure Dean thought he was being very clever on his right-wing talkfest this morning. But Otte had no reason to believe that this project for his directing class would get any more public attention than homework for his math class.

—  David Taffet