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Catholic extremists descend on opening of 'Corpus Christi'
QSanAntonio.com, June 18, 2011
About 65 Catholic extremists organized by the Archdiocese of San Antonio descended upon the San Pedro Playhouse on June 17 to protest the opening of Terrence McNally's play 'Corpus Christi' which portrays Jesus and the apostles as gay men.

Playhouse opens controversial 'Corpus Christi'
San Antonio Express-News, June 16, 2011
When the folks at San Pedro Playhouse asked Greg Hinojosa to direct “Corpus Christi,” he had some doubts. Terrence McNally's play takes the story laid out in the gospels of the New Testament and sets the events in contemporary Corpus Christi, with a gay Christ figure named Joshua who is followed by 12 gay disciples.

'Corpus Christi' playwright reaches out to local cast
QSanAntonio.com, June 11, 2011

Award-winning playwright Terrance McNally has reached out to the director and cast of the San Pedro Playhouse production of his controversial play, "Corpus Christi" which opens on June 17.

"Tell the cast how grateful I am to them," writes McNally in an email. "I won't pretend the next weeks are going to be easy but I am confident they will be rewarding."

"He has been so supportive of the Playhouse, the cast and the crew," says Greg Hinojosa, who's directing the San Antonio premier of McNally's 1998 play which portrays Jesus and his apostles as gay men.

"To say that I am elated that he has taken time to contact me and the cast is an understatement," says Hinojosa. "In addition to his email, he sent us a statement to be read on opening night in support of the Playhouse for producing his play.

In his letter, McNally praises Hinojosa's defense of the play published as an article in the San Antonio Express-News on May 21, "The piece you wrote about "Corpus Christi" and your hopes for the production have made me confident that my play is in very good hands" writes McNally.

McNally's play has stirred up protests by Christian conservatives just about everywhere its staged. (See related story below.) The local production was condemned publicly by a coalition of local religious denominations in a press conference held on May 17 in front of San Fernando Cathedral.

Speaking at the press conference, Auxilliary Bishop Oscar Cantu said that "art must not only imitate life it must elevate it." "Corpus Christi," he said, "is just vulgar." (Click here for related story.)

Since then, Hinojosa says that the Playhouse has received "warnings," prompting tighter security for the play's run. "We will have at least three SAPD officers on site to monitor picketers. I feel confidant that those attending will remain safe and the the production will have a safe environment."

"No matter what the controversy has been up to now," Hinojosa told QSanAntonio, "this may very well be the most important artistic production that I have worked on and I am extremely excited to have an audience see it."

"The actors have been wonderful and I challenge anyone who comes to see it not to be moved to tears by the end of the play. It is a funny, insightful and compelling and tragic story."

Text of Terrence McNally's Letter
QSanAntonio.com, June 11, 2011

Good morning Greg,

The piece you wrote about CORPUS CHRISTI and your hopes for the production have made me confident that my play is in very good hands. Thank you for wanting to do the play, in the first place, and now for your eloquent and moving response to the dust-up it has caused. You're honest and moving in the piece and I salute you for that.

The play often stirs up controversy. Its birthing was fairly difficult in New York and I have been happy to see the play being accepted more and more in the years since. But there are still outbursts of hostility to the very thought of it being performed. Usually the outrage is expressed by people who haven't even read the play. They are furious because gay men and women are embracing the message and example of Christianity and Jesus Christ rather than accepting the traditional message that they are not welcome at the table of spirituality. I, too, was raised as a Catholic in South Texas and I wonder if my experiences growing up are that different from your own, despite our obvious age differences.

If the play has a message it is that we are all divine. That is God's greatest gift to us: our uniqueness and our divinity. If your production helps even one gay man or woman to realize that they are created in God's image and we are all the children of God, then it will be a triumph exceeding any Tony Award.

It's hard to work under such intense scrutiny. I don't envy you the pressure you're under. I hope you and your cast stay safe and calm and creative and JOYFUL and that your voices are heard. I wish I could be with you in person but I am truly swamped with work in NYC.
Let me know how I can be helpful from afar.

Tell the cast how grateful I am to them. I won't pretend the next weeks are going to be easy but I am confident they will be rewarding.

With love and gratitude to you all but especially you, Greg.
Terrence McNally

San Pedro Playhouse stages controversial "Corpus Christi"
QSanAntonio.com, May 18, 2011

This summer, San Antonio will see the first local staging of "Corpus Christi" a play which portrays Jesus as a gay man. The controversial drama will be performed at the San Pedro Playhouse in a production directed by Greg Hinojosa beginning on June 10. However, local religious leaders are protesting the production.

On May 17, the the San Antonio Community of Congregations, a local interfaith organization, had a news conference in Main Plaza to denounce the play and its production in San Antonio. (See related link below.) The group which includes local archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller issued a letter which read in part:

“It would be easy, but inaccurate, to dispose of our concerns as a homophobic response to the depiction of Jesus as a homosexual leading a band of homosexual apostles. While many may find this characterization troubling, we feel that the crude portrayal of homosexual men in this play is, at best, an exaggerated caricature that is insensitive also to our gay and lesbian community.”

The San Antonio Express-News reported that a second group, the Defenders of the Magisterium, a highly conservative Catholic group, is circulating a petition among local parishes in protest of the production.

Hinojosa told the Express-News, "I think it's a great story in terms of all the things that particularly a young gay man is up against — discrimination and hate — and people can come away knowing it's not the end of the world. It's one man's opinion, and he happened to pen it and tried to tell a story and make it an educational experience so those who come can maybe better understand the gay community without fearing what they don't know.”

Hinojosa told QSanAntonio that the play presents an opportunity to show how bullying and hatred can lead to fatal consequences. "What greater figure in history can be used to tell a story of compassion than Christ?" He says he has tried not to sensationalize the portrayal of the"gay lifestyle" in the play but rather give a realistic depiction of our community.

When "Corpus Christi" first opened at the Manhattan Theater Club in New York in 1998, audience members had to pass through a metal detector and have their purses and bags x-rayed before they could enter the theater.

Christian activists, spearheaded by the Catholic League, responded loudly and angrily to Terrence McNally's play which presents a Christ-like hero as a gay man. Death threats were made against theater officials and their families. Protestors, among them a group of Franciscan friars, picketed the production for it's entire run.

In March 2010, a portion of the play was going to be presented by a graduate student at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. Local churches and Christian groups, aided and abetted by Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, rallied against the production which was eventually cancelled because the college feared violence.

"Every citizen is entitled to the freedom of speech, but no one should have the right to use government funds or institutions to portray acts that are morally reprehensible to the vast majority of Americans," said Dewhurst.

Reviewers: Play not as controversial as portrayed

At the time of its opening, The New York Times review by Ben Brantley offered the following synopsis of the play:

"Joshua is born in a motel room and grows up in Corpus Christi, Tex. (also the home town of Mr. McNally), where he is persecuted by teachers and schoolmates for being different. He moves to a big city and recruits his corps of disciples, including his high school sweetheart, Judas . Joshua performs the expected miracles and spreads his gospel of affirmation, summed up in the credo ''God loves us most when we love each other.'' When he returns to Corpus Christi, he is betrayed by Judas to ''the fag haters in priests' robes'' and crucified to the jeers of those who made fun of him as a boy."

Despite the protests and angry denouncement by Christians, most critics who have seen the play say that it is far less incendiary than charged. At Time Magazine, theater critics Richard Zoglin and William Tynan wrote in their review:

"The play has no explicit sex (and very little implicit) and no cheap lampooning of the Greatest Story Ever Told. Indeed, 'Corpus Christi' is a serious, even reverent retelling of the Christ story in a modern idiom--quite close, in its way, to the original. Jesus heals a truck driver of leprosy, raises Lazarus from the dead and predicts his own betrayal at the Last Supper. If the point is to make Jesus' teachings live for a contemporary audience, activist Christians should be hailing this play, not trying to suppress it."

Austin Chronicle columnist Mike King wrote about the play after the Tarleton State scandal:

"Rivaled only by Wharton's Horton Foote, McNally is the most accomplished and distinguished playwright ever to come out of Texas, and 'Corpus Christi' is his work that ventures closest to home. It's a moving and often quite funny mash-up of Fifties Texas and New Testament, juxtaposing football and prom night with the miracle of the fishes and the last supper."

Playwright McNally has won Tony awards for best book of a musical for "Ragtime" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman" and for best play for "Master Class" and "Love! Valour! Compassion!" He was nominated for best book of a musical for "The Full Monty."

In describing his play McNally has said, "Corpus Christi is a play about God's unconditional love for all men and women, even those who would prevent you from seeing it. Gay men and women have taken their place at the table of faith, and they are not giving up their seats to anyone."

Production to offer hope against injustice
By Greg Hinojosa, San Antonio Express-News, May 21, 2011
Initially, when the San Pedro Playhouse contacted me about directing Terrence McNally's controversial play, “Corpus Christi,” I had some reservations. I was familiar with McNally's work. I had read his plays and wondered if the time and energy needed to mount this particular production would be worth the possible controversy. After re-reading the play, I decided it was worth it.

Play deeply offends, shows no new insight
By Jeanne Goodlin, San Antonio Express-News, May 21, 2011
I hadn't heard of the play “Corpus Christi,” by Terrance McNally, until a friend called my office to ask me to read the script and give my opinion. He wondered if he was crazy to be offended by it. Five pages into my own reading of the script, I knew my friend was not crazy. I also knew most people of faith, especially Christians, would be deeply offended.

Interfaith leaders condemn "Corpus Christi"
QSanAntonio.com, May 18, 2011
Members of the San Antonio Community of Congregations, representing the largest religious organizations in the city, held a press conference in Main Plaza on May 17 to denounce the production of "Corpus Christi" which will be staged at the San Pedro Playhouse beginning on June 17.

Religious leaders denounce controversial play
San Antonio Express-News, May 18, 2011
Like-minded interfaith leaders stood in solidarity Tuesday on Main Plaza to denounce a local theater's scheduling of a controversial play that portrays Jesus and his disciples as gay men.

Religious leaders criticize Jesus gay play
San Antonio Express-News, May 17, 2011
Concerned about a drama that depicts Jesus as gay, a diverse collection of the city's religious leaders has banded together to denounce the play, scheduled to begin next month at the San Pedro Playhouse. “Corpus Christi,” written by Terrence McNally, has ignited controversy in other cities for its coming-of-age story about Jesus growing up in that South Texas city during the 1950s. In the play, Jesus is curious about same-sex attraction, is bullied and later presides over a gay wedding at which he's dubbed the “King of Queers.”