OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA.: To present or not to present A Christmas Carol? That is the question. Many an artistic director confronts when programming for December. “I didn’t see much variety being offered during the holiday season,” ventures Rachel Irick, artistic director of OKC Theatre Company. So she opted for Paul Rudnick’s The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, a satirical romp full of retold Bible stories. The show, in which Adam and Steve meet in the Garden of Eden, break up during the flood and reunite as shepherds at the Nativity, is slated to run Dec. 5–22.
After last year’s success with Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Irick wanted to capitalize on the momentum the theatre had built reaching out to her city’s LGBT community. “That’s been a top priority for me,” she says. “I think artists in Oklahoma City should work harder to represent the diverse, big-league city that we’re becoming.”
Though Irick expected a lot of conversation about programming Rudnick’s play, she didn’t foresee losing public funding. The Oklahoman published an October article titled “Bible Play Spurs Anger” which quoted Republican House Representative Dan Fisher’s assertion that the play should be shut down due to its themes, its explicitness and the fact it was being performed during the holidays.
“The hinging point, I believe, is that we are a resident company of Civic Center Music Hall, which is public property,” Irick counters. “The center has released a statement saying that they do not censor their presenters. And religious ceremonies such as weddings are also hosted there.”
Fortunately for OKC, the local newspaper the Gayly has offered media sponsorship, and other groups such as the nonprofit action group Cimarron Alliance have given public statements of support.
Irick doesn’t describe herself as political, but notes that her company followed the DOMA decision closely, in part because Kory Kight-Pagala, who directs The Most Fabulous Story, married his husband in September.
“Are we to only represent red-state values,” Irick wonders rhetorically, “or should it be our intentional function as artists to push the boundaries of what most people might be comfortable with and ask provocative questions to elicit discussion and change in our community?”