Corpus Christi (play)

Corpus Christi (play)

Overview
Corpus Christi is a passion play
Passion play
A Passion play is a dramatic presentation depicting the Passion of Jesus Christ: his trial, suffering and death. It is a traditional part of Lent in several Christian denominations, particularly in Catholic tradition....

 by Terrence McNally
Terrence McNally
Terrence McNally is an American playwright who has received four Tony Awards, an Emmy, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Rockefeller Grant, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Hull-Warriner Award, and a citation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has been a member of the Council of the...

 dramatizing the story of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 and the Apostles. Written in 1997 and first staged in New York in 1998, it depicts Jesus and the Apostles as gay
Gay
Gay is a word that refers to a homosexual person, especially a homosexual male. For homosexual women the specific term is "lesbian"....

 men living in modern-day Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

. It utilizes modern devices like television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 with anachronisms like Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 occupation. Judas
Judas Iscariot
Judas Iscariot was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He is best known for his betrayal of Jesus to the hands of the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver.-Etymology:...

 betrays Jesus because of sexual jealousy
Sexual jealousy
Sexual jealousy is a special form of jealousy in sexual relationships, present in animals that reproduce through internal fertilization, and is based on suspected or imminent sexual infidelity. It is founded on the instinct of keeping genes in the gene pool and expecting sexual partners to care for...

. Jesus administers gay marriage
Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex or social gender. Supporters of legal recognition for same-sex marriage typically refer to such recognition as marriage equality....

 between two apostles.

Leigh Rowney, the director of a 2008 production in Sydney
Sydney
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. As of June 2010, the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people...

, Australia, accepted that it would generate discussion on Christianity and homosexuality stating: "I wanted this play in the hands of a Christian person like myself to give it dignity but still open it up to answering questions about Christianity as a faith system."

It received critical attention for its exploration of gay themes in Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

.
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Encyclopedia
Corpus Christi is a passion play
Passion play
A Passion play is a dramatic presentation depicting the Passion of Jesus Christ: his trial, suffering and death. It is a traditional part of Lent in several Christian denominations, particularly in Catholic tradition....

 by Terrence McNally
Terrence McNally
Terrence McNally is an American playwright who has received four Tony Awards, an Emmy, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Rockefeller Grant, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Hull-Warriner Award, and a citation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has been a member of the Council of the...

 dramatizing the story of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 and the Apostles. Written in 1997 and first staged in New York in 1998, it depicts Jesus and the Apostles as gay
Gay
Gay is a word that refers to a homosexual person, especially a homosexual male. For homosexual women the specific term is "lesbian"....

 men living in modern-day Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

. It utilizes modern devices like television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 with anachronisms like Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 occupation. Judas
Judas Iscariot
Judas Iscariot was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He is best known for his betrayal of Jesus to the hands of the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver.-Etymology:...

 betrays Jesus because of sexual jealousy
Sexual jealousy
Sexual jealousy is a special form of jealousy in sexual relationships, present in animals that reproduce through internal fertilization, and is based on suspected or imminent sexual infidelity. It is founded on the instinct of keeping genes in the gene pool and expecting sexual partners to care for...

. Jesus administers gay marriage
Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex or social gender. Supporters of legal recognition for same-sex marriage typically refer to such recognition as marriage equality....

 between two apostles.

Leigh Rowney, the director of a 2008 production in Sydney
Sydney
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney is located on Australia's south-east coast of the Tasman Sea. As of June 2010, the greater metropolitan area had an approximate population of 4.6 million people...

, Australia, accepted that it would generate discussion on Christianity and homosexuality stating: "I wanted this play in the hands of a Christian person like myself to give it dignity but still open it up to answering questions about Christianity as a faith system."

Reception


It received critical attention for its exploration of gay themes in Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. It was also condemned by Catholic League
Catholic League (U.S.)
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, often shortened to the Catholic League, is an American Catholic anti-defamation and civil rights organization...

, a Roman Catholic watchdog group, for what they viewed as blasphemy
Blasphemy
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy...

, sacrilege
Sacrilege
Sacrilege is the violation or injurious treatment of a sacred object. In a less proper sense, any transgression against the virtue of religion would be a sacrilege. It can come in the form of irreverence to sacred persons, places, and things...

, and anti-Catholic bigotry
Bigotry
A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one exhibiting intolerance, and animosity toward those of differing beliefs...

.

Playwright Terrence McNally
Terrence McNally
Terrence McNally is an American playwright who has received four Tony Awards, an Emmy, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Rockefeller Grant, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Hull-Warriner Award, and a citation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has been a member of the Council of the...

, a gay
Gay
Gay is a word that refers to a homosexual person, especially a homosexual male. For homosexual women the specific term is "lesbian"....

 man, received death threats when it was played in the U.S. Its production in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 was canceled then reinstated, finally opening on 13 October 1998, directed by Joe Mantello
Joe Mantello
Joseph Mantello is an American actor and director best known for his work on Broadway productions of Wicked, Take Me Out and Assassins, as well as earlier in his career being one of the original Broadway cast of Angels in America...

. It received its British premiere in 2000, produced by Theatre 28 and directed by Stephen Henry
Stephen Henry
Stephen Henry is an award-winning theatre director and producer.-Early life:Henry read Drama and Education at St Mary's University College and trained as a theatre director at Drama Studio London, graduating in 1998....

. When it was produced as part of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
The Sydney Mardi Gras is an annual LGBTQI pride parade and festival in Sydney, Australia, and draws in thousands of visitors from around Australia and overseas...

, Anglican bishop Robert Forsyth
Robert Forsyth
Robert Forsyth is the Anglican Bishop of South Sydney - a region of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. He has been bishop since 2000. Prior to that he was the rector of St. Barnabas, Broadway.- Personal life:...

 considered the play to be offensive and historically incorrect.

A condensed version of the play was performed without incident in 2001 as part of a student directing class at St. Edward's University
St. Edward's University
St. Edward's University is a private Roman Catholic institution of higher learning located south of Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas. The university offers a liberal arts education and its campus is located on a hill overlooking the city of Austin. The campus's most notable landmark is Main...

 in Austin, Texas. The play returned briefly to a small New York theatre in 2008, gaining a sympathetic review by the New York Times, which also published an article linking the uproar in 1998 to the death of gay student Matthew Shepard
Matthew Shepard
Matthew Wayne Shepard was a student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured and murdered near Laramie, Wyoming, in October 1998...

. In 2009, the play was performed at the Church of the Foothills in California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

.

In March 2010, a student performance of the play was canceled at Tarleton State University
Tarleton State University
Tarleton State University is a public, coeducational, state university located in Stephenville, Texas. It is the largest non-land-grant university primarily devoted to agriculture in the United States....

 in Stephenville, Texas
Stephenville, Texas
Stephenville is a city in and the county seat of Erath County, Texas, United States. The population was 14,921 at the 2000 census. Founded in 1856, it is home to Tarleton State University. Stephenville is among several communities that calls itself the "Cowboy Capital of the...

. The university had received many complaints about the play's scheduled performance, but its president, F. Dominic Dottavio, citing freedom of speech
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...

, declared that the play would be performed. Dottavio's condemnation of the play in the same letter, though, has been criticized by campus free speech groups as giving encouragement to people trying to shut down the production. After Texas's Lieutenant Governor
Lieutenant Governor of Texas
The Lieutenant Governor of Texas is the second-highest executive office in the government of Texas, a state in the U.S. It is the second most powerful post in Texas government because its occupant controls the work of the Texas Senate and controls the budgeting process as a leader of the...

 David Dewhurst
David Dewhurst
David Dewhurst is the 41st and current Lieutenant Governor of Texas, serving under Governor Rick Perry since January 21, 2003. A member of the Republican Party, he previously served as Texas Land Commissioner from 1999 to 2003. Dewhurst announced on July 18, 2011, that he was running for the...

 weighed in saying, "No one should have the right to use government funds or institutions to portray acts that are morally reprehensible to the vast majority of Americans," the performance was cancelled citing safety concerns.

Documentary film


A film about the staging of the play and its reception, titled Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption, is due for release in 2011. It was previewed at the Atlanta Film Festival
Atlanta Film Festival
The Atlanta Film Festival is an Academy Award qualifying, international film festival held in Atlanta, Georgia. Started in 1976 and occurring every April, the festival shows a diverse range of independent films, including genre films such as horror and sci-fi...

 on May 7, 2011.

For many years, rumours of a film of the play had circulated as an urban legend
Urban legend
An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true...

, calling for e-mail petitions to stop the film.

Sources

  • Eyre, Richard
    Richard Eyre
    Sir Richard Charles Hastings Eyre CBE is an English director of film, theatre, television, and opera.-Biography:Eyre was educated at Sherborne School, an independent school for boys in the market town of Sherborne in north-west Dorset in south-west England, followed by Peterhouse at the University...

     and Nicholas Wright. 2000. Changing Stages: A View of British Theatre in the Twentieth Century. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 0747547890.
  • McNally, Terrence
    Terrence McNally
    Terrence McNally is an American playwright who has received four Tony Awards, an Emmy, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Rockefeller Grant, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Hull-Warriner Award, and a citation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has been a member of the Council of the...

    . 1999. Corpus Christi. New York: Grove. ISBN 0802136354.

External links