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Culture Project -- one of New York City's most important activist theatre organizations -- asked me, as producer of the International Human Rights Art Festival, to help inaugurate their new space, a 500-seat performance space in the basement of St. Mary's the Grand Catholic Church, on Grand Street in New York's Lower East Side, by producing an evening of activist performance.

Little did we know what awaited!  We gathered a top-notch program, headlined by actress and activist Kathleen Turner (see full program below), only to find out three days before our event that His Eminence Archbishop Timothy Cardnal Dolan was banning us from appearing there, due to the LGBTQ content of two of our acts.  Joseph Zwilling, the spokesman for the archdiocese, emphasized: “Whenever parish property is used by an outside group of any sort, whether for a performance, speech, discussion, or other use, the expectation is that nothing would occur that would violate Catholic sensibilities and teaching,” he said.

After a quick "kefluffle with the Cardinal" -- and much press and activist excitement -- we were able to keep our same program, at the same time, being hosted by St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church at the last minute, in Brooklyn Heights.  I'm pasting our program in here, as well as some of the voluminous press coverage of the banning.  This was a major event in the growth of the International Human Rights Art Festival, as we continue to brand ourselves as a movement of the heart and soul.  Even more exciting was our work in continuing to brand the Catholic Church, and Cardinal Dolan in particular, as intransigent, mean and intolerant.  The event has been been enshrined on Cardinal Dolan's Wikipedia page!

Here is the program that we produced:

Kathleen Turner will perform a monologue concerning citizenship from the one-woman play Red Hot Patriot, about journalist Molly Ivins. Kathleen has won two Golden Globe Awards, been nominated for two more, as well as an Oscar and two Tony Awards; she received a Critic's Circle Theatre Award for best actress, Golden Orange Lifetime Achievement Award, and numerous other awards and nominations.

Thank You for Coming Out: Based on the details of a vulnerable and heartfelt coming-out story, improvisers make up a hilariously insightful and creative show on the spot. First you will hear T.J. Mannix's coming out story, then see it brought to life by improvisers Alex Song (The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon), Michael Hartney (School of Rock), Kelsey Bailey (UCB), Kelley Quinn (UCB), and Nikita Burdein (Magnet). We're not just a show, we're a community.

Maybe Burke will perform a selection from from their Accidental Trans Anthems: A cabaret of songs you didn't know were meant for trans people! Maybe is a director, choreographer, writer, performer, and trans advocate interested in telling the stories that have not been told.

Tom Tsai: In his solo "Filling Nothing", Tom reflects on an experience with prison inmates and dancing, in relation to his understanding of Breakin' culture and Hip Hop history. Tom is originally from Taipei, Taiwan, and based out of Los Angeles. His works are derived from investigations of creative movement, multidimensional identity, and empathetic performance.

Angela Polite will perform excerpts from MARY SPEAKS (a passion play). The life of biblical figure Mary, the mother of Jesus, is used to explore parallels in the history of black mothers and the loss of their sons from slavery to present day. Through this journey, Mary lives with the weight of being the mother of a black man-child and the gut-wrenching realization that she could lose him. A proud native of Charleston, SC, Angela is an actress, playwright and arts educator.

Alika Hope Until ALL Are Free, None Will Be: A message on freedom and hope sung through African-American spirituals and 20th century social justice songs.  Alika Hope, a Gold Global Music Award winner, is founder of The Ray of Hope Project, an organization dedicated to using historical music as a pathway for encouraging dialogue and creating solutions to today's social justice issues.

Jacqueline Dugal will share a solo, Redux. The movement creation of Redux stems from the music composition, inspired by John Cage’s Radio Music and adapted for present day the music is a combination of fixed media and chance operations. The movement echoes compositional elements of deconstruction, segmentation, and elements of chance with structured improvisation. Radio and podcast excerpts echo themes of gender, systems, politics, culture, and belonging.

Climate Change Theatre Action: Associate Producer Julia Levine directs Appreciation, a monologue by Katie Pearl from this year’s collection of international short plays on climate, as part of Climate Change Theatre Action, which runs from October 1 to November 18, to amplify the United Nations COP meetings. The monologue will be performed by Peyton Lustig.

Willie Zabar: Comedian Willie Zabar will present Heimi Wilhelm, who will join us for the pre-show to get us started — he’s just a man with a soft spot for climate change concerns, human rights issues and a strong leader.


And here is some of the press about the event:

NBC Live! (October 12, 2017): http://www.nbcnewyork.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Catching-Up-With-Kathleen-Turner_New-York-450630343.html

Playbill (October 13, 2017): Update: Festival Finds New Venue After Catholic Church Dropped Support Over LGBTQ Content

NY Times (October 13, 2017): Festival Moves Event After Church Objects to Gay-Themed Content

Crains NY Business (October 13, 2017): Arts festival scrambling for space after archdiocese nixes LGBT performances

Broadway World (October 13, 2017): Catholic Church Refuses to Host International Human Rights Art Festival Event Featuring Kathleen Turner

Gay City News (October 14, 2017): Catholic Church Anti-LGBTQ Guns Still Firing on All Cylinders

Episcopal Cafe (October 14, 2017): Arts festival too hot for Catholics moves to Episcopal church

NewNowNext (October 15, 2017): Human Rights Performance Forced To Move After Catholic Church Complains About Gay Content

Christian Post (October 17, 2017): NY Church Nixes Festival over LGBTQ Content