Christian Parks, Senior, chose to officially cancel his senior theater production “Corpus Christi” after several meetings with school’s administration. Parks’ show chronicles the life of Jesus as a gay man living in Texas with 12 gay apostles.
Since its publication in 1997, the play has never been performed on any college campus—public, private or Christian—because of the controversial content matter.
Parks knew for two years that he wanted to direct “Corpus Christi” for his senior show.
“I knew this play would cause conflict and uncomfortable feelings, but I wanted to put on the play to open up conversation,” Parks said.
Auditions were held in January for his show, as the drama department had approved “Corpus Christi” for his senior production. Rehearsals and production moved along with the student directed play. For many in the administration and in the faculty, the auditions were the first awareness that students at EMU would perform this play.
Administration began to get emails and phone calls concerning the content of the play. Parks was called in to a series of meetings with various administrators and faculty to discuss the production of “Corpus Christi.”
The production was originally supposed to be performed four times, the standard number of times for a student directed play, this weekend on Thursday, Friday, and twice on Saturday. Parks was not able to advertise the production outside of campus, and the signs for the show posted on EMU’s campus were taken down.
The concerns of the administration that led to the limiting of the performances were varied from student safety to theological issues.
“The safety of our students is the main concern. Historically, there have been threats, attempts, and protests of this play anywhere it has been performed.
“There are theological questions within the play; mainly the sexuality of Jesus and the Apostles, people all being called divine and the moment when Jesus punches a priest,” said Loren Swartzendruber, President of EMU.
Administrators also cited concerns surrounding the use of obscenities, a strong Anti-Catholic bias, and how females are treated in the play.
Parks and the Administration agreed on Monday to limit the show to two invite-only performances on Saturday, with specific classes to be invited for academic purposes. “Because of the concerns from faculty, we wanted to change this from a normal theater experience to an academic experience where conversation could be created,” said Deirdre Smeltzer, undergraduate Dean of Students.
“This is why the production was changed to be invite-only and to two performances. The play could then be used as a starting point for conversation that could be continued within the classroom.”
Administration and Parks met on Wednesday morning for further discussion. Parks said, “I walked into that meeting knowing that I was going to use my power as the director and cancel the production. There will be no showing of “Corpus Christi” at EMU. The administration did not shut my show down. I cancelled my show because it became a dividing wall of hostility between administration and the students.
“The whole point of ‘Corpus Christi’ was to create space for dialogue and conversation. My theater production had become something poisoned and when theater is poisoned, I get out. But administration did not shut it down. Period.”
Written by Katrina Poplett