Controversial 'gay Jesus' play opens in New York
September 23, 1998
NEW YORK - The curtain went up Tuesday on an off-Broadway play about a gay
Christlike figure that infuriated religious groups and sparked
death threats months before it even opened.
Dozens of bearded men in sandals and robes, some carrying
crosses, held a prayer vigil outside the theater as Terrence
McNally's show ``Corpus Christi'' debuted to a full house.
About 100 people protested, with some carrying placards saying
``Why mock Jesus Christ'' and ``Don't Support Blasphemy.'' A
70-year-old woman protesting the play was arrested for disorderly
conduct, police said.
``Certain segments of the arts community seem obsessed with
sex, and ... they're projecting it onto Jesus Christ,'' said Rick
Hinshaw, a spokesman for the Catholic League for Religious and
Civil Rights. ``It's just the misportrayal, blasphemous portrayal
Published reports that the play depicted a gay Jesus character
who has sex with his apostles set off a furor last spring.
Play spokesman Andy Shearer refused to discuss the script
Tuesday, saying McNally preferred to let ``Corpus Christi'' speak
He said no details would be released beyond a description in a
brochure sent to potential theatergoers earlier this year. It said:
``From modern day Corpus Christi, Texas, to ancient Jerusalem, we
follow a young gay man named Joshua on his spiritual journey, and
get to know the 12 disciples who choose to follow him.''
In May, the Manhattan Theater Club canceled plans to produce
the play at City Center after receiving anonymous death threats
against its actors, audience and McNally.
Days later, theater executives reversed their decision, saying
police had promised to ensure safety if the play was staged, and it
was scheduled for Oct. 13. Tuesday was the first night of previews,
in which a play is generally fine-tuned before its official
Dozens of police officers kept protesters away from the theater
and theater-goers, who had to pass through airport-style metal
detectors set up at the door.
McNally, who has won Tony Awards for his plays ``Master
Class,'' ``Kiss of the Spider Woman'' and ``Love! Valour!
Compassion!'' also won this year for his book of the musical