Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

At Least One Missouri Legislator Is 'Bent'

Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

At Least One Missouri Legislator Is 'Bent'

Article excerpt

The world may have taken many strong steps forward toward peace, liberty and other worthy goals in the past 18 years, but Missouri has taken several in the opposite direction, toward repression and darkness and a refusal to allow a variety of points of view.

Judith Newmark, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch theater critic, threw a bright, valuable light into that dark corner recently with a strong, sensible column about the Missouri Arts Council and its action in denying funding to the tiny HotHouse Theatre Company, based in downtown St. Louis, for its planned spring production of Martin Sherman's brilliant drama, "Bent," which looks at the Nazi persecution--and elimination--of homosexuals during the 1930s.

Through the long arm of coincidence, I reviewed the Theatre Project Company's 1982 production for the Post, and also was a volunteer member of the theatre panel of the Missouri Arts Council last spring when we recommended $2,250 in funding for HotHouse, a raise from the $1,500 it received for its 1999-2000 season. It wasn't a lot of money, but except for the Symphony, the Rep, and a couple of other major players, no Missouri performing arts organization gets much money from MAC.

I thought that was the end of it, but in the last month or so, when I received a postcard announcing the HotHouse season, it included the same lines that Newmark mentioned, "Due to the controversial subject matter of 'Bent,' Missouri Arts Council funding is not available for this production."

I promptly called Autry Jackson, an MAC program specialist and head of the committee on which I served. She talked around the subject a lot, blamed the problem on an unnamed legislator in Jefferson City who had questioned using state funds to help sponsor a play whose lead character was a homosexual. The man's life ended in a Nazi concentration camp, and the play is a powerful statement about the strength and dignity of the human spirit. That made no difference. But "homosexual," like "abortion," is a word that sets off major alarms for Missouri legislators.

I don't know what Jackson did next, but she apparently told Marty Stanberry, artistic director, and Donna Parrone, managing director, that they could not use state funds for the HotHouse production. …

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