The three-day run of Bringin' Back Jesus, Edgar Chisholm's drama about a 21st-century scientist and a priest who clone Jesus Christ using blood from the messiah's burial wrapping, was canceled hours before its first performance July 6 as part of the Third Annual Harlem Summer Arts Festival in New York City.
Chisholm told Playbill On-Line July 8 that a representative of the Harlem Foundation for Arts and Culture, the festival's not-for-profit sponsor, informed the playwright of the cancellation the afternoon of July 6, hours before the 8 PM curtain.
The reason for the cancellation, he was told, was "contractual" and having to do with the "union," Chisholm said. Harlem Foundation for Arts and Culture president Joseph Persons could not be reached by press time.
Chisholm greeted his cast and theatregoers prior to the July 6 performance at the Apollo Theatre and had to glumly turn them away. Reservations made by phone were canceled.
Chisholm said the scrapping of the show was totally unexpected -- he was told by Foundation producers the show was a go and arrangements with the famed Apollo venue were secure. Chisholm said some patrons wondered if the religious content and the science-fiction nature of the show might have influenced the cancellation, but he said he had no knowledge of any kind of censorship, but agreed "there are some ideas -- like the cloning issue -- people might not be comfortable with."
Chisholm said he was told by Persons that a smaller venue might become available in the Harlem festival next week.
In the meantime, with his own money, Chisholm, who is also the show's director, said he's independently mounting Bringin' Back Jesus July 14 at the 42nd Street Theatre, 348 W. 42nd Street. He said he has interest from church groups, like the theatre at Riverside Church on 121st Street, for a possible future life for the show.
* The show previously had a workshop at HERE in New York City May 14 15.
In the play, by Harlem's Chisholm, it is 2020 and an atheist scientist and a Catholic priest from a breakaway sect of the faith attempt to clone Jesus using blood from the Shroud of Turin, thought to be the burial wrapping of Christ.
Drawing inspiration from the New Testament's Revelations, the results change the world forever. Is it a good thing that Jesus is cloned?
"Depends on who you are," the playwright told Playbill On-Line. "It's a sci fi play but it's also a spiritual play. It's a spiritual journey for the scientist, [and for the priest] it's about soul-searching and facing reality about why he's a priest."
The play began simply enough in Chisholm's imagination: "I started thinking about cloning and who I would like to see," he said.
The writer's previous works include Without Love and Holiday Diary. The July 6-8 performances were to include a sneak preview of Chisholm's new work, A Divided Heart, a solo show about a woman with multiple personality disorder -- who is also a ventriloquist.
The partial Equity cast includes Paul Marte, Basil Meola, Kathryn Fisher, Judy Golden, Kelly Gleeson, Melvin James and Michael Kretzdorn. Designers are Rona Taylor (set) and David D. Wright (sound). Liz Dickerson is stage manager.
Reservations are recommended. For information, call (212) 281-1596.
This isn't the first time the Shroud of Turin has figured in a play: The flop 1986-87 Broadway musical, Into the Light, starring Dean Jones, was also about a doubting scientist and religious figures. The show involved the investigation of the Shroud's authenticity and the relationship between the workaholic scientist and his young son.
-- By Kenneth Jones