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, will finally be seen July 14, after its July 6-8 run in the Third Annual Harlem Summer Arts Festival in New York City was abruptly canceled.
The one-night-only show July 14 is being produced by Harlem playwright Chisholm, at the New 42nd Street Theatre, 348 W. 42nd Street. He said there is interest from church groups, like the theatre at Riverside Church on 121st Street, for a possible future life for the show.
Chisholm told Playbill On-Line that a representative of the Harlem Foundation for Arts and Culture, the festival's not-for-profit sponsor, informed the playwright of the cancellation hours before the 8 PM curtain of the first show, July 6.
The reason for the cancellation, he was told, was "contractual" and having to do with the "union," Chisholm said. 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 told Playbill On-Line July 13 he sent a letter to the foundation expressing his concerns about the sudden cancellation. 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). Clarence Cuthbertson is stage manager.
For information about the 8 PM July 14 performance, call (212) 281 1596.
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."
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 14 performance includes 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.
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