Wicked’s Stephen Schwartz Hopes Banning Shows from North Carolina Will Turn Anger Into Activism

News   Wicked’s Stephen Schwartz Hopes Banning Shows from North Carolina Will Turn Anger Into Activism The strongly worded letter cites an "outpouring of disgust" and calls for NC citizens to take a stand "against bigotry and injustice."
Stephen Schwartz
Stephen Schwartz

Oscar-winning composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz has penned another open letter regarding his decision to ban productions of his work in North Carolina.

In an email circulated March 31, Schwartz announced that he would no longer permit productions of his musicals to be performed in North Carolina following the passage of HB-2, the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which bars transgender citizens from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex. It doesn’t end there; the bill also bans the passage of any legislature in North Carolina that would protect LGBT individuals.

The law is among several discriminatory pieces of legislation being passed across the U.S. that target LGBT individuals. Many see it as a conservative response to the passive of marriage equality and recent progress in LGBT rights nationwide.

In a new statement provided to Playbill.com by Schwartz’s team, the composer-lyricist takes a hard line against North Carolina Governor McCrory and encourages citizens of the stage to turn their anger into activism.

It can be read in full below:

First of all, I think it's important to remember that this is not just me, this is a collective action by a great many theatre artists, as well as those from other fields. For instance, I saw this morning that 269 authors and illustrators of children's books are declining to attend conferences and festivals in North Carolina as long as the law is in force.

I have received a great number of responses. Not a single one was in support of the law or attempted to justify it in any way. The majority of them were supportive of the action I and my colleagues have taken, but several from North Carolina, while expressing sympathy with the goal, took exception to the means. Their arguments were twofold: that it unfairly targeted those who were already opposed to the law, that is people involved in the arts, and that it deprived people of the chance to raise the sensibilities of their audiences by exposure to works that promote tolerance. I received one particularly poignant letter from a mother who asked how she would explain it to her son, who was learning so much from his involvement in community theatre and now would be unable to do one of my shows.

While I don't deny there is merit to these arguments, I continue to feel that the only way to bring about a quick reversal is for people in North Carolina to become angered enough that they put pressure on the governor and legislature. This may be cynical of me, but I believe that the only thing Governor McCrory and his cronies in the legislature understand is the threat they may not be re-elected. As long as they feel that the bigots in their state are going to support them, while the rest don't consider it an important enough issue to become exercised about, they are not likely to change anything. As I wrote to one of those who responded to me, "In a democracy, I think we all have to take responsibility for the policies of the states we live in. If my home state of Connecticut were to pass such a law, I would absolutely expect consequences that would affect me, even though I would be personally opposed to it. As I have seen demonstrated in the past, the most effective way to fight legal bigotry such as HB-2 is through real consequences that bring about the anger of the electorate and threaten the re-election of the perpetrators."

In support of this view, yesterday I heard from a local North Carolina attorney, one of those who had argued against my methods, that "the outpouring of disgust from CEOs has, I think, taken the NC General Assembly and Governor by surprise, so much so that many local newspapers are writing that a repeal of the law is no longer a question of 'if', but of 'when'. To that end, I thank you and other artists who have spoken out against HB2." I hope he's right, not only because it will mean the end of this reprehensible law, but because it demonstrates that each individual speaking out and acting against bigotry and injustice, in whatever small way he or she can, is able to have a big cumulative effect.

One last thing: I have seen some of the news media report the intent of HB-2 as being about the use of bathrooms by transgender people, as if that were the only content of the bill. This is sloppy reporting, and a parroting of the disingenuous line of Gov. McCrory and those who passed the bill. This bill forbids any municipality in the state from passing any protections whatsoever against discrimination towards LGBT citizens. There are other heinous things in it as well. It is masquerading as only having to do with bathrooms, and the news media should not fall for it.

Thanks for your attention to this, Stephen Schwartz

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