The folks behind a new stage production took a page out of Phelim McAleer’s playbook.
Two theater groups, along with “arts and media company” DMNDR, hosted a 24-hour reading of the Mueller Report over the weekend. The event lacked dramatic interpretations or creative flourishes beyond music played during redacted portions of the report.
It’s Verbatim Theatre, the style Team McAleer uses for some of its productions, like the “Ferguson” play concerning the death of Michael Brown. Only “Filibustered and Unfiltered: America Reads the Mueller Report,” hosted by Long Island City’s Arc venue, went off without incident.
That hasn’t been the case with McAleer’s latest project.
“FBI Lovebirds: UnderCovers” snared space at Studio Theatre’s Mead facility last month. The play features Kristy Swanson and Dean Cain reading the texts sent by FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, respectively, revealed more than just their romance.
The messages showed how the agents schemed to take down Donald Trump. It’s pure Verbatim Theatre, stories told directly from key source material.
Only The Studio Theatre in D.C. quickly changed its mind about renting its space to McAleer’s team. The venue’s official statement explained why:
“Studio Theatre has cancelled its contract with third-party rental client Unreported Story Society. Media reports have made us aware of undisclosed details about the event and have generated open and violent threats against the theater and event participants. Studio has an institutional responsibility to consider the safety of our staff, patrons, community, event organizers and attendees. These concerns must be paramount.”
It’s understandable that a theater would want to protect its employees. The threat against free expression and the First Amendment, though, is considerable. What if every challenging play is met with the threat of force?
Couldn’t future shows, or even a reading of the Mueller Report, face similar violence?
McAleer was understandably steamed about the abrupt cancellation.
It’s why HollywoodInToto.com reached out to 14 theatrical groups across the country for comment. We asked the following questions:
- Is this giving in to the “heckler’s veto?”
- What does this say about free expression?
- Might there be another way to let the show go on?
- Related thoughts?
The theaters had two-plus days to respond in some fashion -- a statement, a phone call, an email Q&A even.
None of the groups contacted so much as responded to the press queries.
Director Jackson Gay, who conceived the aforementioned Mueller Report reading, told The New York Times about the reading’s potential power.
“It’s not meant to be a performance,” she explained. “It’s meant to be a bunch of people coming together and finding their voice. We shouldn’t just sit back on our couches and let other people tell us what to think.”
New Neighborhood and Slightly Altered States, the theatrical groups which took part in the Mueller Report reading, were among those ignoring HiT’s press request.
Here’s a brief, but important, thought experiment.
Imagine if unseen forces threatened violence against that Mueller Report reading, an event framed as critical of President Trump. Does anyone think those same 14 theatre groups would have remained silent?
It’s likely celebrity activists like Alyssa Milano, Mark Ruffalo and Bette Midler would have spoke out against the potential violence and its ramifications.
And they would be right.
As it stands, Hollywood Nation isn’t up in arms about the “FBI Lovebirds” cancellation, a theatrical event dubbed “MAGA”-friendly by select press outlets.
McAleer shamed the theatrical community for not rallying to his side.
“They were probably too busy giving themselves awards for standing up to artistic censorship to actually notice there is real censorship of political views going on beneath their noses -- they are pathetic Fake Artists living in a Fake Art bubble,” McAleer said.
The good news?
The show will go on. FoxNews.com says McAleer found a new venue to host the production.
The show will now be held in the amphitheater at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, just a few blocks from the White House, on June 13.
The “FBI Lovebirds” crowdfunding campaign is currently at 98 percent of its monetary goal with 14 days remaining.