Sacramen-to's Califor-nia Musical Theatre -- which is currently presenting the lesbian-themed The Color Purple and is slated to run the gay-friendly Avenue Q early next year -- found itself in a firestorm of controversy when it was exposed earlier this week that its artistic director Scott Eckern had financially supported the state's Proposition 8.
That measure, which narrowly passed in last week's election, strips away the right to marry for the state's gay and lesbian population.
Of course, it didn't seem to matter to the majority of Californians that straight people have long been undermining the institution of marriage or that the biggest proponent for the measure was a church that formerly embraced polygamy or that the world didn't end when the state's gays and lesbians began marrying or that voters were taking granted rights away from a select group of people who they deem not good enough to be allowed to marry, yet they're more than OK when it comes to paying taxes.
According to the Sacramento Bee, after Eckern's support for the measure was revealed, "Gay and lesbian artists called Monday for an artistic and audience boycott of California." Undoubtedly, that is what led California Musical Theatre Executive Producer Richard Lewis to convene an emergency meeting of the board of directors and issue the following statement:
Any political action or the opinion of Scott Eckern is not shared by California Musical Theatre. We have a long history of appreciation for the LGBT community and are truly grateful for their longstanding support.By yesterday, Eckern, who had been with the California Musical Theatre for 25 years and professes to have a lesbian sister, resigned in midst of the maelstrom. According to the Bee, the embattled artistic director released a statement in which he "said that he 'honestly had no idea' that the contribution would spark such an outrage and made the donation to act on his belief as the traditional definition of marriage be preserved."
His statement also said, in part:
...after prayerful consideration to protect the organization and to help the healing in the local theatre-going and creative community.... I support each individual to have rights and access, and I understand that in California domestic partnerships come with the same rights that come with marriage.... I definitely do not support any message or treatment of others that is hateful or instills fear.... This is a highly emotional issue and the accusations that have been made against me are simply not true.... I am disappointed that my personal convictions have cost me the opportunity to do what I love the most which is to continue enriching the Sacramento arts and theatre community.
Now, as regular readers know, I am completely and unabashedly a vigorous proponent of our First Amendment right to Free Speech. Make no mistake, I will defend Mr. Eckern's right to donate as he chooses, however misguided I happen to believe he was (I mean really! What was he thinking?! Doesn't he realize he's biting the hand that has fed him for the past 25 years, as surely many within musical theatre's base are gay, including his top subscribers, donors, artists, casts and crews?!?!)
Having said that, I also must defend those who were exercising their right to vote with their pocketbooks against the theatre by boycotting it. Why would any of them want to continue supporting an organization that had as its artistic director, the individual whose vision is supposed to be open to all the possibilities, someone who would cash in on his gay base and essentially saying, "We'll take your dollars, including for shows like The Color Purple and Avenue Q, but you'd better not be married!"
In retrospect, in reaping what he has sown, Mr. Eckern was probably not best suited for the occupation he has abruptly left.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).