University officials have stated that the one-act version of Terrence McNally’s play, whose main characters are meant to recall Jesus and his disciples, was stopped before it could open because of concerns for student safety. And university administrators, including President Dr. Dominic Dottavio, have said they had no contact with officials in the Texas state government over that decision, although the day before the play was set to open, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst denounced it as “blasphemous.”
But Rachel Dudley of the Texan News Service reports that Dr. Steven Hotze, president of Conservative Republicans of Texas, has written that he’s grateful Gov. Rick Perry’s and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s “behind the scenes work” was responsible for halting the play and its “hate speech against Christians.” The TNS has filed a Texas Public Information Act request for phone records to determine whether university officials were in contact with the governor’s office or lieutenant governor’s office before the play was canceled.
Perry’s chief of staff declined comment. But Perry’s office said he had no involvement. So did Dewhurst’s office.
In a related development, the Texan News Service posted a video interview with Dottavio and John Jordan Otte, the student-director responsible for the Corpus Christi production. But Tarleton has suspended student journalists’ access to its YouTube channel. Students had used the channel to post the TNS newscast with stories about the play and its aftermath
The full story is below the fold. Hat tip to Blotch.
GOP Blog: “Necessary Steps” Taken to Kill Tarleton Student’s Play; State, Tarleton Officials Denounce Account
By Rachel Dudley
Texan News Service
Since last month’s cancellation of a controversial play depicting a Christ-like character as gay, Tarleton State University has maintained that the production was stopped because of concerns for student safety and academic integrity.
Now, however, another picture of what may have happened behind the scenes has begun to emerge.
The president of a Republican organization claims that Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst were instrumental in the play’s termination.
The play’s student producer, John Jordan Otte, told a Dallas newspaper that “jobs were threatened.” He later said his comment to a Dallas Voice reporter wasn’t intended for publication and that he had no “factual knowledge” that anyone on campus was threatened with firing. But Otte also said that the university “bowed down to extremists.”
University officials are trying to locate phone records which might show who was in communication with Tarleton administrators prior to the play’s cancellation. The Texan News Service requested the records under the Texas Public Information Act.
Tarleton State University President Dr. Dominic Dottavio said he had no contact from the state’s chief executives about the play.
“I can tell you unequivocally, I have not had any conversations with the lieutenant governor,” he said. “Nobody from the capital called me … to weigh in their opinion on this issue.”
But Dr. Steven Hotze, the president of Conservative Republicans of Texas, claims Gov. Perry’s “behind the scenes work” was responsible for halting the play.
In a note posted on political blogger Norman Adams’ website, Hotze said the governor and his chief of staff killed the controversial play.
“We also owe a debt of gratitude to Gov. Perry for his behind the scenes work to stop the play at Tarleton State,” Hotze wrote. “Ray Sullivan, the governor’s chief of staff, was notified of the play on Thursday and after discussing it with the governor, the necessary steps were taken to ensure that its performance was canceled.”
Hotze did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.
Theater professor Mark Holtorf also disputed Hotze’s contention that the governor played any role in his decision. The university said the decision to cancel the play was Holtorf’s alone.
“Gov. Perry did not affect my decision, and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst did not weigh in on my decision to cancel the play,” Holtorf said. “I am confused by what is being said. It was my decision.”
Perry’s chief of staff declined comment. But Perry’s office said he had no involvement.
“The decision to cancel the play was the university’s and the governor didn’t have anything to do with it,” said Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed. She also referred questions about the posting to Adams.
In an interview, political blogger Adams said, “Of course Perry and Dewhurst had something to do with it, but I don’t know what steps were taken.” Adams is the co-founder of Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy and founding director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (“CALA”).
The posting, headlined “Tarleton State University Hosts Hate Speech Against Christians, Play Canceled” post, remained available yesterday at the Texas GOP Vote website.
Adams said that Hotze and others were “thanking Dewhurst and Perry for whatever assistance they lent in helping to cancel the play. I assume when the university received all of the e-mails from certain people then they decided to cancel it.”
“You should ask the head of the university,” Adams said. ”They know what happened.”
Dottavio said the university was not politically coerced into cancelling the play. “That did not happen,” he said.
Tarleton spokeswoman Liza Benedict said Hotze’s claims are not credible.
“They are just trying to create trouble and keep this thing going,” Benedict said, “We never once spoke to the lieutenant governor or the governor. They had nothing to do with the professor’s decision to cancel the play.”
The day before the play was cancelled, Dewhurst denounced the production as blasphemous.
”Every citizen is entitled to the freedom of speech, but 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,” he said in a written statement his office distributed online.
Dewhurst’s spokesperson Rich Parsons said “once the play reached a national level, our office received many calls about the play, and Chief of Staff Blain Brunson contacted the A&M staff to get some background information on the play, but the lieutenant Governor did not contact Tarleton.”
The play was denounced by some religious leaders and others as blasphemous and sparked calls for protests on the Tarleton campus. The physical protests, however, failed to materialize after the play was cancelled.
The university was flooded by thousands of e-mails protesting the play generated by social networking sites and an online petition. Many of the e-mails simply read “Blasphemy is not free speech. Cancel the play.”
The university says there are thousands of emails about the play to Dottavio, Holtorf and others. The Texan News Service has requested copies of some of those emails. The university has said it would cost $2,627.50 to make those records available.
Tarleton has also suspended student journalists’ access to its YouTube channel. Students had used the channel to post Texan TV News newscasts, including stories about the play and its aftermath.
The university said it was suspending student access to that channel until policies governing its use can be created.