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Pastor Phelps Project revival Tuesday, satire on censorship

Alistair Newton’s Ecce Homo production of The Pastor Phelps Project made huge headlines during the Summerworks Theatre Festival last summer. Newton is reviving the play for a single performance at Uof T on Tue, Dec 1.

“It is potentially the blackest satire you can possibly imagine,” says Newton. “We don’t hold back, it doesn’t pull any punches.”

Aside from earning rave reviews, you may remember that last summer Fred Phelps, patriarch of the crotchety god-hates-randomly Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), threatened to send his gay-hating god-squad from its Kansas home to picket Newton’s play.

A hundred or so Toronto homos (and their enthusiasts) showed up to counter-protest but the Phelps crew never arrived. It was a fun night anyway.

Check it out.

Incidentally, WBC made headlines more recently for following Adam Lambert around on this summer’s American Idol tour. They’re like bizarro-groupies.

Why is Newton remounting the production now and only for one night? Here’s what he has to say:

“When I did the show the first time I had a few people say me, ‘Why are doing your gay issue play you live in Toronto? What right do you have to be talking about gay rights?

In light of the murder of Christopher Skinner…  Actually just the other day I was on a date in Dundas West and somebody yelled, ‘Die faggot,’ at me for holding hands with my boyfriend.

There’s an irony there in that we’re hosting World Pride and we had a hate crime murder. It engages with those ideas but is also a deconstruction of the reaction of left-wing voice that would shut down freedom of expression and censor Fred to try to protect themselves.

Censorship is not just a sliding slippery slope. It’s like a big chasm. It’s why I’m so obsessed with freedom of expression being for everyone or for no one. That Adam Lambert thing was so innocuous and so safe. There was so much sexual imagery in the rest of that broadcast but as soon as it’s gay it becomes this thing we have to protect our children from. I don’t like that pastor Fred called me a fag on the internet but the alternative was worse.

Phelps is so useful as a conduit to discuss ideas that are important like about religion and homophobia and censorship and freedom of speech. But on his own it’s irrelevant to waste your time on 70 people in Kansas with all the trappings of a cult.

The Pastor Phelps Project: a fundamentalist cabaret
Tues, Dec 1, 7:00pm Robert Gill Theatre
214 College St, 3rd Fl
University of Toronto
Pay what you can general admission at the door.

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