Mayor of Georgia Town Shuts Down Rocky Horror Show, Prompting Outcry

News   Mayor of Georgia Town Shuts Down Rocky Horror Show, Prompting Outcry
 
The membership of the Dramatists Guild of America has issued a letter of complaint, crying censorship, about a Georgia mayor's Sept. 15 decision to shut down a community theatre production of The Rocky Horror Show at a city-owned community arts center.

Wayne Garner, the mayor of a Carrollton, GA, pulled the plug on the Carroll County Community Theatre's amateur staging of Richard O'Brien's The Rocky Horror Show that had been approved by a city board and was in rehearsal to play the City of Carrollton Cultural Arts Center. The producers had reportedly promised that only adults could attend the raunchy show, but that was not enough for local leaders. They decided the "sweet transvestite from Transylvania" didn't belong in a city venue.

In an open letter to the citizens of Carrollton, Garner wrote, "In regard to my decision to cancel the Rocky Horror Show play scheduled for production…in Carrollton, Georgia — I feel that I, as your mayor, had no other choice.

"It is true that this play was approved by the Carroll County Community Theater's Board of Directors, a group charged with reviewing and approving plays scheduled to perform at the Cultural Arts Center. It is my further understanding that they did their job — they reviewed the content of the play and voted, with some reservations, to allow the request to proceed. The board issued instructions to 'tone the content down' and to make the production more PG-oriented. The director of the play failed to do so, and in fact, took some liberties that headed the play in the opposite direction.

"On Sept. 13, 2011, I was contacted by the city manager, Casey Coleman, who informed me that he had received a video of actors rehearsing a scene in the play, titled 'Touch Me.' After reviewing this video, I was in absolute agreement with Mr. Coleman that this play could not be performed in the Cultural Arts Center. It is not an appropriate use of tax dollars, city property, city manpower or other city resources."

He indicated that he had the support of the Carroll County Community Theater Board of Directors, the arts center manager, the director of the recreation department, "and a majority of our City Council members." Carroll County's population is about 110,000. Dramatists Guild of America president Stephen Schwartz issued a response to these actions explaining that, "By guaranteeing that none of the productions at the Cultural Arts Center can address adult themes, and so must be inoffensive to every potential audience member, the mayor is also eliminating any productions which, though they might be offensive to some, might be thrilling, thought-provoking, even life-changing to others in their community."

Schwartz (the songwriter of Godspell, which, over the years has received some complaints about its content) pledged the support of the 6,200-plus members of the Guild. The director of the local production and others are committed to raising money and producing The Rocky Horror Show at an independent venue in the future.

The mayor wrote in his letter, "This group of individuals wishing to perform this play has every right to perform it in the proper setting. However, I do not believe that it is suited for our community-oriented Cultural Arts Center. Simply put, if it is to be performed, it should be held in an appropriate venue."

A Carrollton attorney, James Hopkins, told Times-Georgian.com, that he will match donated funds in order to make the production a reality.

"There's no limit," Hopkins said. "I'll put in whatever's needed to make sure the show is put on."

The show's director, Michelle Rougier, said she and her colleagues intend to raise $10,000 to perform the show. "This blatant censorship has awakened a vibrant grass-roots movement in our community to support free expression in the arts," she wrote to friends and supporters.

There's also a kickstarter.com fundraising campaign for the production.

There's also a Facebook page called "I support Rocky Horror Picture Show Being Performed in Carrollton." It has more than 3,200 supporters who "like" it.

The Rocky Horror Show, more widely known for its cult-hit film version, known as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," concerns a drab young couple, Janet and Brad, who stumble into a mansion populated by sexually uninhibited characters — including the leather-and-fishnet-stocking-clad Dr. Frank N Furter, who helps the outsiders realize their erotic sides. A Los Angeles Times reviewer wrote the following about a revival currently playing at The Old Globe in San Diego: "O'Brien's giddy 1973 sci-fi cult classic has now breached the tasteful bulwarks of regional theatre, and one suspects the subscription sales manager is getting some interesting phone calls."

The score of the sci-fi rock musical includes the songs "Sweet Transvestite," "The Time Warp," "Hot Patootie," "I Can Make You a Man," "Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch Me," and "Damn It, Janet," among others.

Schwartz wrote in his letter of protest, on behalf of Dramatists Guild membership, "The mayor has announced that, from now on, he will make sure that only G, PG and PG-13 types of plays are approved for the city-owned stage. Presumably, he feels the citizens Carrollton need to be protected from material which they might find provocative, challenging, or unsettling. Except that they best theatre — from Oedipus Rex to Death of a Salesman to South Pacific — has always been provocative, challenging and unsettling."

<i>Rocky Horror</i> fans protest the closing of the show
Rocky Horror fans protest the closing of the show
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