Friday, June 13, 2003

Gay-theme play attracts protest

Group objects to depiction of Jesus

By Andrea Uhde
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Clasping rosaries and praying quietly, more than 50 protesters paced in a circle Thursday night outside of the Know Theatre Tribe on Sycamore Street in Over-the-Rhine, praying for the souls of those involved with a play depicting Jesus Christ as a gay man.

A typical sign said "Know Theatre Tribe Knows Blasphemy."

By the entrance to the theater, which was premiering Corpus Christi, about two dozen supporters of the play held signs saying "You cannot silence art" and stood with closed lips and frozen stares.

Lisa Capetillo, a member of Immaculate Conception Church in Norwood, looked at the play supporters and made the sign of the cross over her chest with her rosary. "It's sinful," she said of the play, then continued on with her prayer.

Capetillo and other play protestors held signs and prayed on the sidewalk in front of the theater. Except for a few outspoken members of the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati, the protest was peaceful.

The protest may have helped business.

The play sold out Thursday, with 125 tickets purchased, and there was a waiting list with 30 names, said Christine DeFrancesco, a resident artist for the theater. A number of people hoping to buy tickets at the door were turned away.

"Controversy just sells tickets," said DeFrancesco. She said she expects every night to sell out. "Unfortunately, the agenda's shifted a bit from what the play's about," she said, peering at the protesters.

Corpus Christi is no stranger to controversy. The play, written by Terrence McNally, tells the contemporary parable of a gay Joshua, which blends into the life of Christ. Many groups in towns where Corpus Christi is performed have tried to stop productions of the play. None has succeeded.

Thursday's protesters said their action was just a taste of what's to come. The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property is organizing a rally outside the theater from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday.

"I'm not arguing they don't have a right to come," said Amanda Mayes, 28, of downtown, who is against the play. "The problem is whether you should do everything you have a right to do. This is offensive to Christians."

John Oxner, 34, of downtown, confronted one of the protesters and explained why he supports the play. "It's about having freedom in this country to express ourselves differently," he said.

Corpus Christi will show at 8 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday through June 28 at the Know Theatre Tribe at 1425 Sycamore St.. For tickets, which are $12, call 300-5669.


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