NEW YORK — Even before Manhattan Theater Club’s first sold-out production of “Corpus Christi” began Tuesday evening, theatergoers were met with airport-style security, a cadre of 20 TV and print reporters, and an estimated crowd of 150 religious protesters, and they even witnessed an arrest.
“Corpus,” penned by Terrence McNally, has a gay Christ figure for a protagonist and has become a firebrand for religious Christian, Catholic, and socially conservative groups.
“We’re Catholics and love our Lord,” said Norman Fulkerson, a publicist for the Americans for Tradition, Family and Property. “It’s not historically correct to portray him as a homosexual. And the sin of homosexuality is offensive to me.”
Fulkerson admitted that he’d not seen the play, nor read the script, but had “heard that it’s very offensive,” an admission echoed by a dozen other protesters interviewed outside the MTC’s City Center.
The play had originally been canceled by the MTC on May 22, after McNally and the members of the MTC received anonymous telephone death threats and MTC said it was “unable to mount this production responsibly.”
A subsequent backlash of protest from the creative community erupted after the cancellation, and South African playwright Athol Fugard on May 26 threatened to pull his upcoming production of “The Captain’s Tiger” from the MTC sked.
That in turn led to the MTC’s reinstatement of “Corpus” at a jammed press conference May 29, after the NYPD began an investigation and threat assessment.
MTC then retained security specialists Kroll Associates.
Police arrested one person for disorderly conduct who was later released.