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Censorship in WI: WVCY Radio Host Intimidates DNR Into Exiling Theater Production

Production of THE BIBLE: THE COMPLETE WORD OF GOD (ABRIDGED) has been ousted from their performance venue at SummerStage in Lapham Peak State Park because of threats from Christian extremists.

DELAFIELD – Phantom Cicada Theater Company’s production of THE BIBLE: THE COMPLETE WORD OF GOD (ABRIDGED) has been ousted from their performance venue at SummerStage in Lapham Peak State Park because of threats and manipulation from Christian extremists.

These religious zealots claim the show is blasphemous and an attack on Christianity. The Department of Natural Resources, who manages the state park, has caved to complaints from these ignorant and narrow-minded individuals and forbidden the production to take place as planned. The DNR used a loophole in their contract with SummerStage that disallows non-“family friendly” presentations to be staged in the park.

Originally conceived by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, this play has been successfully produced for over 17 years-- including a sold-out 12-week run in Washington DC’s prestigious Kennedy Center. It is an innocuous, non-blasphemous, lighthearted send-up of the Bible. For reviews of past productions, visit the RSC website. http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/productions/the-bible-the-complete-word-of-god-abridged/

WVCY’s right-wing radio host Vic Eliason stirred local and out-of-state members of the Christian community to harass the board members of SummerStage and the DNR with phone calls and emails about this so-called blasphemous play. Eliason even purchased airtime on a local Christian TV station,  encouraging viewers to join his cause. When these actions persuaded the DNR to expel the play from the park, Phantom Cicada’s producer Brian Faracy, the play’s director Bo Johnson, and the performers took steps to stage their production at an alternate venue, the Delafield Arts Center. As soon as the center agreed to host the production, a repeat of the threatening deluge ensued, targeting the center’s administrators. Feeling that their personal safety was at risk, and on the advice of the Delafield police, the venue reneged.

This situation is abhorrent on multiple levels. Contract-breaching aside, the DNR’s decision is censorship and a blatant violation of the right to freedom of speech. But the colossal mistake this government agency made was allowing themselves to be manipulated by the Christian fanatics. By bowing to religious extremists, the DNR has simultaneously blurred the separation between church and state and weakened their respected position in the eyes of the public.

Vic Eliason continues to attack the production, and conservative radio personality Mark Belling (http://www.belling.com/) of 1130-WISN echoes his arguments.

These religious radicals will only succeed if we let them. Steps are already in place to find an alternative venue for the production. Director Johnson is fired with enthusiasm to take the show forward and has every intention of staging The Bible as planned. With just one week before opening night, the producers and performers would love to see you there, starting August 31st at a theatre TBD. Until then, here’s how you can help:

Please voice your concerns about the DNR’s decision to breach their contract, allowing religious extremists to call the shots, violating freedom of speech rights, and disallowing the production to go forward here:
Secretary - Cathy Stepp (608) 266-2121 – cathy.stepp@wisconsin.gov

Deputy Secretary - Matthew Moroney (608) 264-6266 - Matt.Moroney@wisconsin.gov


Support from local press follows. For further reading and listening: (Please Share)

http://thirdcoastdigest.com/2012/08/radio-bullies-push-around-theater-geeks-in-the-burbs/

http://www.expressmilwaukee.com/blog-8558-theatrical-censorship-in-delafield.html

http://www.progressive.org/a-win-for-religious-censors-in-wis-audio

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Luke September 09, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Bo, I DO feel that when parents take an active role in selecting entertainment for their children that they strengthen their families, which is why I think that entertainment ratings are important. Ironically, you were arguing against that very rating in an attempt to make "family-strengthening" the standard, rather than the actual rating made available to parents. Also, my "you" was not directed at you personally, but at your group, represented by your leadership, such as Matt Konkel, who made the point that the play had been protested around the country.
jeff ircink September 09, 2012 at 10:30 PM
bo - glad i caught to the show this afternoon. the crowd - at least half over 50? - love it. as a Catholic, i wasn't the least bit offended. and as i've said about the last show you directed, THE BIBLE was one a) i wish i had written, and b) i wished i was acting in. BRAVO! i PRAY that this production gets another run somewhere.
Matthew D. Konkel September 10, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Luke, I have enjoyed reading yours and Bo's posts. You make some good points. But just to clarify, if I at some point indicated that the The Bible: (Abridged) had been protested against at other venues around the country, that is my mistake. I did not mean convey that. My research is consistent with Bo's. As far as I know, there has not a peep of controversy or protest about the play in all of its 17+ years of stage-life until this production of it. Also, I am just a theater supporter, not in any way a producer of the show or creative entity in the production.
Luke September 10, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Matt, Thank you for your reply. It appears that I misinterpreted your comment about other venues being boycotted to mean that the show had been boycotted at other performances elsewhere. If not, that is my mistake. I'm not interested in clarification. My point is that enforcement of rules cannot be called a "loophole." The DNR's hands are tied.
jeff ircink September 17, 2012 at 12:59 AM
sort of a side-story on Vic from WVCY. was at the Cedarburg Wine Festival today and of all the people to come up in conversation - Vic Eliason. a friend of mine used to sell radio time for "The Fish", a Christian radio station that appealed to a variety of faiths. the station was sold in 2008 to K-Love, a national Christian broadcasting company. my friend stated that when The Fish entered the radio market in 2001, Vic from WVCY made a HUGE stink about the station and its format, going on and on about how The Fish's particular Christian music format would corrupt children. so apparently Vic even attacks other Christian radio stations, those NOT of the same belief system as HIS. my point? none - just to reiterate i think Vic Eliason's a little different.

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