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IN MY OPINION
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Day 11 - Cousins Day from Bev Sykes on Vimeo.
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RIGHT TO BE STUPID
12 November 2008
We have lots of rights in this country (even given those that George Bush has eliminated).
One of our most cherished rights is the right to free speech. It's a dual edged sword which gets us every time.
Yes, you have the right to stand up and speak your piece on whatever issue you are passionate about. But the flip side of that is that those who are strongly opposed to your views also have the same rights.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had the constitutional right to march on Washington, D.C., to stand at the Lincoln Memorial and give his "I Have a Dream" speech.
But if you believe that King had that constitutional right, you also have to admit that the Ku Klux Klan has the right to march, to stand in public, and to deliver its message as well, no matter how hateful we find it.
We keep forgetting that.
There is a real kertuffle which started here in Sacramento and has gone viral almost instantly.
Scott Eckern is the Artistic Director and Chief Operating Officer of California Musical Theatre, the group which brings touring Broadway shows to Sacramento.
I don't know him at all, though I interviewed him a year ago, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Sacramento's very popular Music Circus, which brings big popular musicals to the city in the summertime.
When I interviewed him, he was very proud of his connections and his reputation in theatre across the country, that he could go to New York or Los Angeles and meet with bigwigs and audition top notch performers to come and participate in the Music Circus season. This is a man whose whole life since 1984 has revolved in and around theatre.
Think about an awful lot of people who work in and around theatre....
What is this kertuffle?
Well, as we were leaving Cousins Day, I had a call from another reviewer, asking if I'd heard about what Scott did. Eckern apparently donated $1,000 to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign, on the advice of a sermon at his (Mormon) church.
It seems that anybody who gives $1,000 or more goes on a list. A public list. A list which, through the Freedom of Information Act, is accessible to anybody who knows how to find it on line.
And find it they did.
When I got home, there were four e-mail messages from other individuals or groups telling me about Scott's donation. There was an article in the Sacramento Bee, Jeri said she heard about it from a guy in Illinois who got the news from his agent in New York.
The board of CMT was meeting in special session to address the matter. The producers of Hairspray, which played here last year, had already talked with Scott and let him know that they would see that Hairspray never played here again (or any other show they might produce). There were rumors of death threats.
I have to admit that my first reaction was to be furious, to wonder how I could take a stand, maybe stop reviewing CMT shows. But that was just my first reaction. And, of course, I'm a professional critic and couldn't really do that. Even if I wanted to.
At the very least Scott's action was amazingly insensitive for someone whose life is working with and around gay people. At worst it's incredibly stupid...for someone whose life is working with and around gay people.
He has apparently issued a public apology and has contributed money to the HRC (the Human Rights Campaign, which lobbies for gay rights). But it's difficult to forget that he was willing to donate big bucks in order to relegate gay people, who make up a good percentage of the people he works with, to second class citizens status, to make sure that gay people are constitutionally declared "unequal" to everyone else. A TV news report tonight talks of a possible boycot of CMT productions, including its brand new "this is going to save our company" cabaret.
When my first flush of anger passed, I realized that this was not California Musical Theatre's act, it was the act of somoene who works for them. He did it as a private citizen and CMT shouldn't really suffer as a result of one man's insensitivity and stupidity.
As frustrating as it is, he has the right of free speech and he has every right to donate whatever he wants to whatever cause he wants.
I hope he isn't planning on directing any shows soon, or sitting in any rehearsals soon, or having any dealings at all with a lot of his staff because I suspect he isn't going to find many smiles.
But he has the right to his feelings, and he had the right to be stupid.
And he was very, very stupid. Vote for the measure, if you must, but don't go public with your support, especially if probably the vast majority of the people with whom you work are gay!
The next show booked by CMT is Avenue Q, whose writers are gay and whose program is "packed to the gills with gays among the cast and creatives and designers and musicians and technicians," (according to playright Jeff Whitty).
I don't think I'd want to be Scott Eckern right about now. (Or, in fact, at any time.) I hope he managed to catch Keith Olbermann's comment on gay marriage...and I hope you do too.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Well, I guess I won't worry about having to review this again!
MILES TO NOWHERE: 84 miles