DELAFIELD – Phantom Cicada Theater Company’s production of THE BIBLE: THE COMPLETE WORD OF GOD (ABRIDGED) has been ousted from their performance venue at SummerStage in Lapham Peak State Park because of threats and manipulation from Christian extremists.
These religious zealots claim the show is blasphemous and an attack on Christianity. The Department of Natural Resources, who manages the state park, has caved to complaints from these ignorant and narrow-minded individuals and forbidden the production to take place as planned. The DNR used a loophole in their contract with SummerStage that disallows non-“family friendly” presentations to be staged in the park.
Originally conceived by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, this play has been successfully produced for over 17 years-- including a sold-out 12-week run in Washington DC’s prestigious Kennedy Center. It is an innocuous, non-blasphemous, lighthearted send-up of the Bible. For reviews of past productions, visit the RSC website. http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/productions/the-bible-the-complete-word-of-god-abridged/
WVCY’s right-wing radio host Vic Eliason stirred local and out-of-state members of the Christian community to harass the board members of SummerStage and the DNR with phone calls and emails about this so-called blasphemous play. Eliason even purchased airtime on a local Christian TV station, encouraging viewers to join his cause. When these actions persuaded the DNR to expel the play from the park, Phantom Cicada’s producer Brian Faracy, the play’s director Bo Johnson, and the performers took steps to stage their production at an alternate venue, the Delafield Arts Center. As soon as the center agreed to host the production, a repeat of the threatening deluge ensued, targeting the center’s administrators. Feeling that their personal safety was at risk, and on the advice of the Delafield police, the venue reneged.
This situation is abhorrent on multiple levels. Contract-breaching aside, the DNR’s decision is censorship and a blatant violation of the right to freedom of speech. But the colossal mistake this government agency made was allowing themselves to be manipulated by the Christian fanatics. By bowing to religious extremists, the DNR has simultaneously blurred the separation between church and state and weakened their respected position in the eyes of the public.
Vic Eliason continues to attack the production, and conservative radio personality Mark Belling (http://www.belling.com/) of 1130-WISN echoes his arguments.
These religious radicals will only succeed if we let them. Steps are already in place to find an alternative venue for the production. Director Johnson is fired with enthusiasm to take the show forward and has every intention of staging The Bible as planned. With just one week before opening night, the producers and performers would love to see you there, starting August 31st at a theatre TBD. Until then, here’s how you can help:
Please voice your concerns about the DNR’s decision to breach their contract, allowing religious extremists to call the shots, violating freedom of speech rights, and disallowing the production to go forward here:
Secretary - Cathy Stepp (608) 266-2121 – firstname.lastname@example.org