The Seattle production of Jerry Springer: The Opera doesn't open for another 77 hours or so, but it's already been subjected to an avalanche of outrage from Catholics furious that Seattle Theater Group and Balagan Theatre would even consider doing such a blasphemous work. As Antonio Hicks, PR manager for Seattle Theater Group, told me yesterday, "STG has received over 40,000 emails from the group America Needs Fatima, protesting against us for allowing such a production to occur."
Some background: Jerry Springer: The Opera is the award-winning satirical musical based on The Jerry Springer Show. The musical was written by Richard Thomas and the fearless British comic Stewart Lee, and the blowback from Catholics is nothing new.
Here's the Catholic League's official statement on the 2008 production at NYC's Carnegie Hall:
As we predicted, this grotesque production assaulted Christianity; it also dirtied the illustrious history of the hosting venue...In the musical, Christ is depicted as a fat, effeminate character who has his genitals fondled by Eve. The crucifixion is mocked, the Eucharist is trashed, and the Virgin Mary is introduced as a woman who was “raped by an angel”.....More than anything else, what the show celebrated was moral nihilism. At the end, it even voiced the theme: “Nothing is wrong and nothing is right” and “there are no absolutes of good and evil.” This is exactly what the Nazis said in their defense at Nuremberg.
As for the 40,000-and-counting letter campaign against STG from America Needs Fatima, you can read the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's smashing response to ANF's flying monkeys, along with STG's official response to the controversy, after the jump. (And get your tickets for Jerry Springer: The Opera here!)
Here's Tony Brown at the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, addressing protests against the show in 2011:
America Needs Fatima, an anti-blasphemy Catholic campaign not officially sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church, is really, really upset by the way Jesus and the Virgin Mary are portrayed in a scene of the musical "Jerry Springer: The Opera." ANF has attacked the Beck Center for the Arts' upcoming production of the show via a massive, automated e-mail campaign, with in-person pickets promised during the Feb. 17-March 27 Lakewood run. To hear the rhetoric, you'd think the Beck Center was torturing Catholics by forcing them to watch "Jerry Springer: The Opera." If anything, it's America Needs Fatima that wants to force its beliefs on others by trying to shut down the show. Here's what the nearly identical e-mails generated on the ANF site say:
• I have read a description of this play and am shocked at its blasphemous representation of things absolutely sacred to our Faith.
Translation: "I don't know what I'm talking about because I haven't read or seen or heard this musical." You can't call balls and strikes if you don't stand behind the plate. America Needs Fatima isn't even in the ballpark.
• Moreover, your center receives tax dollars!
True. The biggest government contribution to the Beck is the arts center's tax-exempt status. You know what other group has the same status? America Needs Fatima, whose "message" is potentially offensive to tax-paying atheists, among others.
• The production deeply offends God and Catholics. Would you do a play that offends Muslims or Jews?
The almighty and ever-living God is offended by a little old musical in little old Lakewood? Really? God said that to America Needs Fatima? Isn't God likely to have better things to be offended about: war, crime, suffering, people bullying other people?
And Catholics are offended, too? Yup. Some so much so, apparently, that this self-appointed group of blasphemy-busters is dropping hints of Jew-baiting and Muslim-hating.
Nearly eight of 10 Americans are Christians, and a quarter of those are Catholics.
Wouldn't it be more Christian of members of this majority to avoid comparing themselves to minorities like Jews and Muslims, who together account for about 4 percent of the U.S. population, and whose families have suffered centuries of real persecution, often at the hands of people who call themselves Christian?
For the record, the Beck Center has staged shows that make fun of things sacred to groups other than Christians. One, "The Producers," got laughs out of the Holocaust. It was written by Mel Brooks. He's Jewish.
And here is Seattle Theater Group's official statement:
The Seattle Theatre Group, a non-profit performing arts organization stands by its mission to present diverse performing arts programs. While not all productions will appeal to all people, we do not embrace censorship and believe in the American right for all to have a voice, therefore, we will not block any protest attempts of this production, nor will be make any attempts to keep it from being performed.