Sunday, February 16, 2003

Know Theatre hears protest

'Corpus Christi' scheduled here for run in June

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Forget snow, Know Theatre Tribe in Over-the-Rhine is being buried under a blizzard of angry postcards.

The topic is Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi, which, since its 1998 debut, has been the target of America Needs Fatima, the "anti-blasphemy campaign" of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.

Postcards are being delivered by the pound to The Enquirer as well as Know Tribe. The vast majority are postmarked from the region surrounding the society's home base of Hanover, Pa.

"They have the right to send the letters and we have the freedom to do the show," says Know executive producer Jay Kalagayan. It's set for a June 12-28 run.

Corpus Christi is a parable that parallels the New Testament story of Jesus with the journey of a contemporary gay man, Joshua, and 12 "disciples" from present-day Texas to ancient Jerusalem.

"We're moving toward gay themes," says Kalagayan. "This population needs a voice. We'd like to be one of them."

The postcards received by Know begin, "I vehemently protest the blasphemous play Corpus Christi." The five-year campaign has not canceled any production.

America Needs Fatima also has rigorously campaigned against the film Dogma, stage comedy The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told and the Osbournes' wall calendar.

The original production of Corpus Christi by Manhattan Theatre Club won attention when it was canceled following an avalanche of threats of violence. After accusations of censorship, the production was reinstated. Reviews were mixed.

McNally, whose plays include Love! Valour! Compassion! and Master Class, has called Corpus Christi "a passion play" and that Joshua's story is told in "the theatrical tradition of a medieval morality play.

"The purpose of the play is that we begin again the familiar dialogue with ourselves: Do I love my neighbor? Am I contributing good to the society or nil? Do I, in fact, matter? Nothing more, nothing less."

When Corpus Christi debuted, Time magazine called it "a serious, even reverent telling of the Christ story in a modern idiom ... If the point is to make Jesus' teachings live for a contemporary audience, activist Christians should be hailing this play, not trying to suppress it."

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