By guest blogger Rebecca Coleman
Quite a little brou-ha-ha going on these days in T.O. The Summerworks Theatre Festival, which is an independent, juried Arts festival, is causing a big stir. Well, not the festival per se, but a show in it called The Pastor Phelps Project.
Here’s their media blurb:
Pastor Fred Phelps and the good people of the Westboro Baptist Church are here to explain why God hates fags and America is doomed. It’s homophobia versus burlesque in a musical cabaret showdown. Stare into the abyss of fundamentalism; sexy political satire with razor wire barbs.
Well, the fine people at Westboro Baptist Church heard about this, and felt, I imagine, attacked, so they are putting a group together and going up to Toronto to picket the show. They have a website: http://www.godhatesfags.com.
Well, all the picketing and media releases and backing-and-forthing has certainly translated into publicity for both parties. Witness today’s story in The Globe and Mail. The focus of the story and, seemingly, the moral of it, is that there is no such thing as bad publicity.
I’m not so sure. On one hand, I totally get how hard it is to produce a show, to do live theatre. There’s never enough money, you are competing with tons of other (bigger budget) productions for a limited amount of space – get people in through the door however you can. Resort to nudity and “sex” or “blowjobs” in the title of your play. But on the other hand, it makes me feel uncomfortable to do it.
In an ideal world, I would love it if people wanted to come to see our shows because of oh, say, the writing, the acting, the direction. But in a world where we are obsessed with what Pamela Anderson had for breakfast, that’s a tough one. We often feel like we have to resort to some more erm, shall we say, dramatic tactics to get people in through the door. That makes me sad.
Part of what also makes me sad is that there is no real winner in this situation. Yes, the folks at Summerworks will probably have overflowing houses. But equal attention is being paid to the guys at Westboro.
As a publicist, I was taught that if there is no conflict, there is no story. As a kid, I was taught to ignore bullies. Because if they don’t get a reaction, there’s no payoff.
Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Titania Productions, a Vancouver Marketing and Public Relations Company.