Cannabis Dei

So I happened upon a couple local Catholic bloggers who are outraged that this church is being turned into the Ivory Theatre. And even more outraged that New Line Theatre, an "avant garde" theatre company (say what?) will be in residence there. And even MORE outraged that the first show will be Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll.

They should be glad we didn't open there last fall with Johnny Appleweed...!

I've tried to engage one of these guys in a dialogue, and though he's certainly no wacko, he won't even consider that the world isn't quite as black-and-white as his Catholic Bible would suggest. I explained to him that our show isn't just a blanket endorsement of sex or drugs or rock & roll (though may I personally endorse all three while we're on the subject?), that instead it is a thoughtful piece of theatre that asks questions about these forces, that explores their place in and effect on America's culture and people, and that whole sections of the show actually dramatize the destructive force of both sex and drugs in certain contexts.

I also tried to explain to him that though religion may feed the soul for some people, art also feeds the soul (arguably, for more people), that art celebrates the majesty and complexity of our world and ourselves, and that the kind of work New Line does is not a "commercial" for anything. We explore our world. We ask questions. We don't presume to have the answers.

Unlike religion.

Even the comedy songs in this show have surprising depth. "Perky Little Porn Star," for example, describes the singer's unhappy, repressive childhood, which has led him into the porn industry. We can laugh at the jokes in the song, but there is some very painful truth there. No easy answers, but truth nonetheless. "Nobody Needs to Know" is a song of an adulterous husband blaming his wife for his infidelity. "Maybe I Like It This Way" offers us a woman in an abusive relationship who knows she won't leave. Again, no easy answers, but lots of truth!

This guy responds that he has no objection to the work we do, merely that we're doing it in a church. But it's not a church anymore. It hasn't been since 2005. It's a building. It's stone and glass and masonry. There is no divinity in the building, only in the beauty of human achievement it represents. And what better place to create theatre, this ancient ritual that, under ideal circumstances, strives to touch God by connecting people to each other in the pursuit of truth.

I'll end by quoting "Walking in Space," a song from Hair that is the centerpiece of Act II of Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll:
My body is walking in space.
My soul is in orbit
With God, face to face.
. . .
On a rocket to the fourth dimension,
Total self-awareness the intention.
. . .
Walking in space
We find the purpose of peace,
The beauty of life
You can no longer hide.
Our eyes are open,
Wide, wide, wide...

Long Live the Musical!