Don't Mess With Jesus

Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi, a play that envisions Jesus as a gay man in 1950s Texas, has created just as much drama offstage as on since its 1998 premiere. The original Manhattan Theatre Club production generated so much outcry — and so many bomb threats — that audiences had to pass through metal detectors and the show was temporarily canceled. In 2006, 108 Productions mounted its own version of the play, directed by Nic Arnzen, with the 12 disciples played by actors of different ages, races, and genders. The show was slated to run for eight nights, but it has continued through the present day, touring cities around the world. Today the group premieres a documentary about its experience, Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption. It was co-directed by Arnzen and James Brandon, who also plays Jesus in the stage production. The film follows the cast as they cope with hostility touring the American South and also as each member, as Arnzen says, develops “a different and stronger view of spirituality and themselves.” Tonight’s event features a Q&A with the cast and a performance by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. Additionally, 108 Productions performs the play at multiple locations this weekend. Long-simmering resistance to the project has bubbled to the surface. Thousands have signed a petition denouncing the film, and protestors are expected at the premiere. Nonetheless, Arnzen’s attitude remains positive: “The film is a message of love and equality. [The protesters] are making a mistake. Once they say they’re against us, they see how many people are against them.”
Sun., April 29, 2012

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