Oklahoma House Rep. Dan Fisher (R-Yukon) wants to block the comedy from being presented Dec. 5-22 at CitySpace Theatre, a spot that seats less than 100 in the basement of Civic Center Music Hall.
Described as an alternative to Oklahoma City’s usual holiday-themed productions, Fabulous’ first half spoofs some of the Old Testament’s major stories, including replacing Adam and Eve with Adam and Steve.
The theater company’s website recommends the production “for adults only” because of sexual themes and adult language.
Fisher, a senior pastor at Yukon’s Trinity Baptist Church and a leading member of the Patriot Pastors, a politically active conservative clergy group, provided a written statement to Oklahoma Gazette. He said he is personally disappointed that Oklahoma Arts Council and the Oklahoma City Council have approved the play’s production.
Fisher alleges that the play intentionally mocks the Bible, is extremely offensive to Christians and, according to the script, calls for total nudity and simulated sexual acts onstage.
“Adding insult to injury, this play will be presented during the Christmas season,” he said. “I find it ironic that in this day, when Christians are constantly being lectured about tolerance, the arts council and the city council consider it acceptable to allow the presentation of a play in a public facility that denigrates the Christian faith during the time when Christians are celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ.”
Fisher stated that he understands the legal right for a private entity to use private funding to host such an “X-rated” event on private property for adults aged 18 years or older. He also believes any amount of public funds used to underwrite a theater company presenting a play that includes “nudity and/or the simulation of ‘vigorous’ oral and anal sodomy and bestiality on stage on public property to children 14 years of age and above is not an inalienable right.”
“I respectfully request that the Oklahoma Arts Council, the Oklahoma City Civic Center and the Oklahoma City [theater] group change their direction and produce a play that would be more reflective of the Christmas season and the traditional themes that surround it,” he wrote.
OKC Theatre Company’s artistic director, Rachel Irick, said she learned of Fisher’s objections when she was contacted by a reporter from The Oklahoman; she was not contacted by the legislator.
“Whether or not he or any organization intends to follow through with threats to shut our production down or publicly protest it, I think it’s horrible that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have to read things like this in the paper,” Irick said.
the allegations, Irick said nudity isn’t against the law in a
theatrical production and that some past productions have featured nude
“Nudity is not the point of the scene in question,” she said. “Expressing the innocence, love and freedom of the two characters in their first moments of existence is the focus of the scene. We plan to deal with the fact that Adam and Steve are naked in the garden of Eden in a more creative way.”
As for Fisher’s allegations of “vigorous” simulated sex acts and bestiality, Irick said the satirical farce does include bawdy jokes and broad sexual themes, but that “an actor clowning around in a piggy costume doesn’t qualify as bestiality in my book.”
“Let me be clear: The play does not contain simulated sex,” she said. “When I hear the words ‘simulated sex,’ I think of people onstage attempting to make the audience believe they are actually engaged in a sex act. To my way of thinking, the purpose of something like that is to arouse the watcher. Our purpose is laughter and empathy, not arousal.
“This play is just that: a play. And no one in the audience will be under any illusions that actual intercourse is being performed, because it obviously isn’t. When a murder occurs in a play, no one in the audience actually believes someone has died. It’s called ‘willing suspension of disbelief.’”
OKCTC chose Fabulous to build on the momentum it started reaching out to the LGBT community and its allies with last fall’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a musical about a transgendered rock singer.
“It is our function as artists in society to elicit discussion and change for the good of our community, so that is what we try to do with every show and every season,” Irick said.
“This play has the audacity to suggest that God created homosexuals just as they are and loves them just as they are, that God is bigger than any one religion. These are controversial ideas for a large portion of our population, but our mission is to try to reflect our community as a whole, not just the majority.
“Like it or not, LGBT individuals are a vital part of Oklahoma City — at Christmastime and every other day of the year. I believe that everyone, regardless of lifestyle, religious belief or nonbelief should have an opportunity to be represented. To my way of thinking, this freedom should be a place of common ground that every American should be able to agree upon.”
Irick selected Fabulous because she felt family audiences in OKC already are well-served this holiday season. Her troupe has performed many family-oriented shows in the past and will continue to do so.
“In the past, we have produced several Christmas shows with a decidedly Christian worldview, and if that is what people want to see, it’s definitely available in Oklahoma City this year,” she said.
“Our company wants to be about inclusion, not exclusion, and the Oklahoma City community can expect more of the same from us in the future.”
As for the claim the play is an attack on Christmas or Christians, Irick said the satire spoofs the agendas promoted by anti-LGBT individuals and their organizations, not any Bible stories or scripture.
“The character of Adam spends most of the play searching for God, for the meaning of existence and love, and trying to get those around him to believe in something, too, even though he himself is still searching,” she said.
“This reflects an incredibly relevant human experience, not just for LGBT individuals but for everyone on this planet.”
The Oklahoma Arts Council provided the company with $18,000 to support five other plays this season, but not for The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told. Arts council spokesman Joel Gavin said the agency followed state guidelines that prohibit the funding of programs with simulated sex acts.
Such political pressure by conservatives isn’t new to the Oklahoma Arts Council.
Earlier this year, Oklahoma House Rep. Josh Cockroft (R-Tecumseh) introduced House Bill 1895, which called for eliminating funding to the Oklahoma Arts Council over four years.
“There was a bill drafted during the 2013 session to defund us, but it did not pass,” Gavin said. “In general, the state Legislature supports our agency, understanding the impact of our more than 550 grants in more than 100 communities statewide.”
Irick said the theater company will fight any action possibly taken by the city to inhibit the group’s freedom of expression as artists, but she doubts it will be necessary.
“I think that in examining the situation, city officials will see that censoring us would be a violation of our First Amendment rights.”
She was stunned and saddened when she discovered the lack of public funding for Fabulous, but the situation led her to reach out for help from the company’s patrons, friends and the artistic community.
“We have received a lot of vocal support in return, and a few donations,” she said.
“We are far from our goal of $5,000, but we expect to get there before the show opens as interested parties are made aware of how important it is, especially now, for us to move forward with complete funding.”
Robin Dorner, editor-in-chief of The Gayly, stated in an email that Fisher’s attack was aimed not at the play but at the entire LGBT community.
“Because the controversy caused a withdrawal of some of their funding, we felt it necessary to step up and show our support,” Dorner said.
Fisher has a right to his opinions, she said, but does not have a right to censor others based upon those opinions.
“The play breaks no law, state or federal, and, in fact, it has been well-received in most major cities,” she said.
Irick said many artists in the community have stepped up to help the company.
“We were so encouraged when the cast of last season’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch and several independent artists in the community wanted to lend their support,” she said.
“They are taking action to help us move this production forward. Reduxion Theatre Company will also help by joining in on the presentation, and CityRep is allowing us to use the Freede on that night even though they are in final stages of rehearsal for an upcoming production. It’s wonderful to see our theater community so unified.”
Donations to support OKCTC are also being accepted online at okctheatrecompany.org.