D. Paul Thomas, whose new play The Presentment opens March 21 (after starting previews March 12) at the Pasadena Playhouse, got the idea for the work from the 1996 controversy in the Episcopal Church over the ecclesiastical trial of a retired bishop who had committed heresy by ordaining a non-celibate gay man.
"It seems so medieval in concept," said Thomas, "that near the end of the 20th century, a number of bishops within the Episcopal Church of America would put forth the notion that heresy had indeed taken place."
As profiled in the Jan./June issue of "Preview," the Playhouse's subscriber magazine, Thomas, an actor and theatre manager (New York's Lamb Theatre) as well as a playwright, felt so strongly about the controversy that he sat down and wrote a play about it -- though, as he points out, it's no docudrama. Set in the Upper West Side apartment of an actor, Michael, and his advertising executive wife, Rebecca, the play focuses on their friend Jonathan, an AIDS sufferer who has moved in with them. Jonathan's former lover is the Rev. David Thompson, the man Michael's father -- the Rev. Samuel Jennings -- is to speak out against at an upcoming church trial, known as a presentment.
Director Richard Seyd said that Thomas "feels very strongly about the issue of persecution of gays inside what is supposed to be a compassionate environment. I think he was extremely interested in exploring the stresses that such an issue can cause inside a family."
Thomas grew up in Indianapolis, attending "a potpourri of fundamental evangelical churches." He had several relatives in the clergy. Upon moving to New York to become an actor, he rejected his fundamentalist upbringing. "The church wasn't a part of my life for a long time," he said. He's now a practicing Episcopalian. Jeff Allin, Jerry Hardin, K Callan, John DeMita, Daniel Nathan Spector and Maura Vincent star in the show, which features a set by John Iacovelli, lighting by Michael Gilliam and costumes by Maggie Morgan. The Presentment is scheduled to run through April 25.
For information, call the Playhouse at (626) 356-PLAY or visit www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent