Catholic officials pull permission to perform play
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Catholic church officials have revoked permission for a local theater group to perform a play in one of their school auditoriums because they say it contains homosexual themes.
However, members of the theater group claim the move is intended make sure their play never gets performed.
The Catholic Diocese told the Lansing Civic Players two weeks ago that it can't perform "Breaking the Code," the story of a 1940s mathematician convicted of homosexuality, in the Lansing Catholic Central High School auditorium.
Michael Diebold, the diocese's director of communication, told the Lansing State Journal for a Sunday story that the decision came from the bishop's office.
"The theme of the play and the content of the play are contrary to Catholic teachings," he said.
For now, the play - scheduled to open Jan. 18 - remains homeless. The Players hope to put it on at one of Lansing's public middle schools, but will not find out if that will be possible until Monday.
Meanwhile, the Players dispute both the banning of the show and the timing of the decision. The show includes no kissing or sexual touching, director Todd Heywood said.
Turing worked for the British Code and Cypher School during World War II. He's credited with breaking the Germans' Enigma code during the war, then inventing the Turing Machine, a forerunner of the modern-day computer.
Then Turing was convicted. His suicide at 42 is thought to have been the result of court-ordered hormone therapy.
For the Civic Players - a fixture in the Lansing area for 73 years - this is partly a change of pace.
"A lot of our patrons are from the World War II era," Civic Players President Beverly Gross said. "We were focusing on the historical nature of the play."
But the diocese takes issue with the homosexual themes and on the fact that the Triangle Foundation, a gay advocacy group, was selling tickets to the Jan. 17 dress rehearsal.
Heywood said that the decision was sudden and arbitrary and said that diocese officials have known about the play's content.
But Diebold said the diocese did not.
"We just got wind of it," he said. "Had we been made aware that this was planned at a Catholic school, we would not have scheduled the play in the first place."
Last spring, the Civic Players began sending brochures about the upcoming season. In describing Turing, the brochure said: "He was put on trial for breaking another code - the taboo against homosexuality." It then boldfaced the phrase: "Adult language and content."
Diebold said that diocese officials never saw the brochure. He said officials found out they received a phone tip on Dec. 19.
Two days later, the Players got a letter, revoking permission to do the show at Catholic Central.
"I find it incredibly stupid to say something without ever seeing the play," he said. "They have never read the script. They've never spoken to the Lansing Civic Players about it."
Diebold admitted that he has not read or seen the play.
"It's the theme of the play, the content of the play and the involvement of the Triangle Foundation that we object to," he said.
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Last updated 1/7/2002 by Jean Richter, richter@eecs.Berkeley.EDU