Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Pedophilia - the musical

Express route to controversy in Atlanta
Around the holidays, the biggest challenge for many theater companies is convincing audiences to care about yet another staging of "A Christmas Carol." This season in Atlanta, however, Actor's Express wants to stir up buzz about a less familiar property - namely, a pedophile musical.

The Express has already started pushing Love Jerry, a new tuner written and composed by Megan Gogerty that follows the tortured story of Jerry, who develops a sexual relationship with his nephew while trying to stay friends with the boy's father.

A delicate, often heart-wrenching piece of theater, the show, which preems Jan. 22 at the Express, never descends to shock-value tactics as it explores volatile terrain, and its lilting country songs give the characters emotionally vulnerable texture. Should it manage to attract a crowd, Love Jerry could very well leave them cheering.

But how do you convince anyone to come sing along with a child abuser? It's a double-edged question: Not only can untested musicals be notoriously hard to launch, especially when the writer is an unknown, but pedophilia (not to mention incest to boot) has proven anathema to ticket buyers.

[…] In Love Jerry, there's no question what's going on, yet Gogerty refrains from demonizing the title character. She focuses instead on the entire family's attempt to comprehend what's happened.

This moral grayness makes the play even trickier to market, yet it's also what convinced Express artistic director Jasson Minadakis to produce it. He says he "absolutely believes" in the show and is continually "shocked by how powerfully it expresses itself."

[…] With that in mind, initial poster concepts featuring a man putting candy in a child's hand were jettisoned as being too frank. Now the promos are more suggestive, featuring an eerie shadow of a man in a clown nose staring into a room. (The clown refers to a somewhat supernatural character who tempts Jerry.)

But no matter what the posters' design, the show's themes may still leave many Atlantans nonplussed. The city is famously prone to legit controversy. In 1993, a county commission rescinded all public arts funding rather than support a staging of Terence McNally's gay-friendly "Lips Together, Teeth Apart." And just last year, the police shut down a production of "Naked Boys Singing" - which the Express hosted but didn't produce - for indecency.

[…] Minadakis says he and his local contemporaries remain committed to risk. He insists Atlanta's population "could be very turned on by challenging theater" as long as they keep getting the chance to see it.

I don’t even know where to start with this. Shocking it may be, but I don’t see how anyone can possibly find it surprising. Maybe it will be a wake-up call for people who don’t believe in slippery slopes, but I doubt it. Most of the people I know who object to “slippery slope” arguments really just want to get to the bottom of the hill but are unwilling to admit it publicly.

I’m certainly glad they chose to “refrain from demonizing the title character.” No one wants to be insensitive to the Abuser-American community! We really should congratulate ourselves. The USA has finally reached that level of complete tolerance and acceptance we’ve been striving for when we’re no longer capable of demonizing the demonic.

Philistine that I am, I really wouldn’t care to meet anyone that’s “very turned on by challenging theater” in this particular case. I’d have to spend two hours in the shower to make sure I didn’t catch something.

Actually, that’s a very interesting twist of the language. Answers.com defines “Philistine” as “a smug, ignorant, especially middle-class person who is regarded as being indifferent or antagonistic to artistic and cultural values.” The real Philistines, however, were actually a highly “civilized” and artistic people who worshipped Canaanite gods like Baal. Ashteroth, and Dagon, by practicing ritual prostitution and – probably – child sacrifice. I’m not sure I’m the one that actually best fits the description. Next year’s musical extravaganza will probably throw a few kids into the Fiery Mouth of Moloch, with Light my Fire pounding in the background.

I’ve used this quote from fictional FBI agent Fox Mulder before, but “Did you really think you could call up the devil and ask him to behave?