NEW YORK — After a firestorm of protest erupted in the theater community following the cancellation of plans to produce Terrence McNally’s new play “Corpus Christi,” the Manhattan Theater Club has reversed its decision and will go ahead with the now-controversial play.
“We are happy to report that Terrence McNally’s play ‘Corpus Christi’ has been reinstated to our fall schedule,” MTC executive producer Barry Grove told a packed news conference Thursday. “The production dates will be announced.”
Grove and Manhattan Theater Club artistic director Lynne Meadow said the decision to reinstate the work came after the New York City Police Dept. began what they termed a “responsive” investigation and threat assessment. The play’s cancellation last week was the result of threats the theater had received following media reports about the play’s content.
Grove and Meadow declined to say what security measures had been taken, but they did say that an additional security presence was introduced, even for the press conference.
“Lynne Meadow has acted with courage to reverse her initial decision and to once again offer me a production of my play,” said McNally in a statement released through the William Morris Agency.
“I am very happy that the MTC has reconsidered its decision not to produce ‘Corpus Christi’ this season and has renewed its offer of a production in the fall. I look forward to further discussion with them to that end,” McNally added.
South African playwright Athol Fugard, who on Tuesday had pulled his new play “The Captain’s Tiger” from the MTC fall schedule in protest, released a statement through Meadow saying that he had “boundless admiration for Meadow’s courage” and “would be delighted to bring back my play” to the MTC.
Meadow’s initial announcement of the play’s cancellation did not specifically refer to threats, but the situation was spelled out at the press conference. “After information about the play appeared prematurely in the press, we received numerous death threats to Mr. McNally, and finally, a threat to exterminate the author, the staff (of MTC) and our audiences, and ‘burn the building to the ground,’ ” Meadow said.
The threats had followed protests from Roman Catholic leaders and Catholic organizations, reacting to an initial press report that said the play depicted a gay Christ figure. MTC officials declined to comment on the nature or content of the work-in-progress, asking that people render a decision after the play was mounted.
Asked if portions of the work were being rewritten or removed in response to the furor, the MTC’s Grove said McNally was “an excellent playwright” who “doesn’t respond to that kind of pressure.”