« Previous | Culture Monster Home | Next »

Prop. 8 repercussions hit Sacramento theater

November 11, 2008 |  3:09 pm

The blowback from last Tuesday's passage of Prop. 8, which prohibits same-sex marriage in California, has hit the California Musical Theatre, a major nonprofit stage company in Sacramento, following the revelation via the Web that its artistic director gave $1,000 to back the state constitutional amendment.

Among those weighing in with dismay over Scott Eckern's donation are Tony winners Jeff Whitty, who wrote the book for "Avenue Q," and Marc Shaiman, composer and co-lyricist of "Hairspray." Shaiman said Tuesday that he phoned Eckern on Friday to protest, then e-mailed more than 1,000 contacts to alert them about the donation.Marc Shaiman, composer of Hairspray

"Of course it's his right to donate the money," said Shaiman, who was disappointed that Eckern, a California Musical Theatre employee since 1984 and its artistic director since 2003, had benefited from last season's touring production of "Hairspray," then piped money to a cause the L.A.-based Shaiman deplores. In their conversation, Shaiman said, "he basically gave me that thing we're just sick of hearing -- 'these are my religious beliefs, but it's nothing personal' " against gay people. "I don't want to hear that anymore. I just told him I'm disgusted at that use of money that came in some way from a show I created." (Update: The “Hairspray” production at California Musical Theatre last August was not a touring production, but one mounted by CMT itself. A touring version of “Hairspray” was seen at the theater in 2004.)

Whitty, whose "Avenue Q" is scheduled to play the Sacramento theater in March, was among those alerted by Shaiman's e-mail. On Monday,  he wrote in his whitless.com blog that "like Marc, I'll work to prevent CMT from producing any of my future shows with Mr. Eckern at the helm. To me, he's one of those hypocrites who profits from the contributions of gays ... but thinks of us as ultimately damned."

Jeff Whitty winning a Tony award for Avenue Q But today, despite wanting to "make an example of somebody," Whitty blogged that he reversed his stance on a boycott, writing that Eckern had given him a "convincing and sincere apology" and didn't deserve to be targeted for more censure. Whitty said he would "look forward to working with the California Musical Theatre in the future."

Shaiman said he would keep pushing for public acknowledgment and redress that would not damage the theater for one individual's political views but would make it clear that anti-gay views won't be accepted in the theater community. A benefit event at California Musical Theatre might be appropriate, he said, allowing backers of gay marriage an artistic platform while raising money to help mount a legal appeal to overturn Prop. 8.

In any case, Shaiman said, the response should be measured. When told that Eckern's donation had been posted on a website called antigayblacklist.com that calls for a boycott against businesses and professionals who backed Prop. 8 -- including some public school teachers -- the composer, who also writes film music, questioned using the word "blacklist," the term for the exclusion of artists in 1950s Hollywood for having suspected Communist leanings. "We have to watch ourselves and not become what we're fighting against," he said.   

Eckern released a statement today apologizing "for any harm or injury" caused by his donation. He said he would donate $1,000 -- commensurate to what he gave Prop. 8 backers -- to the Human Rights Campaign, a group that supports equal rights for gays and lesbians. Update: Eckern’s full statement is here.

After talking with many friends and colleagues, he said, "I have a better idea ... how deeply felt these issues are, and I am deeply saddened that my acting upon my religious convictions has been devastating to those I love and admire." He noted that his sister, a lesbian, is in a domestic partnership relationship.

Richard Lewis, the executive producer whose family founded California Musical Theatre decades ago, said Eckern's views were his own, not the theater's, and affirmed "appreciation ... for the [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community who have played a crucial role in our success." A torrent of e-mails and calls protesting Eckern's donation began on Friday and has continued, said Lewis, who likened the  blowup to when Los Angeles Dodgers executive Al Campanis questioned on national television whether black ballplayers had the right stuff to be successful baseball managers.

"We're looking at the magnitude of the situation and need to discuss whether we take any action.... We don't want to rush into things and do something foolish," Lewis added. "We just put the initial statement out there: 'Don't punish the theater for what Scott chose to do.' "

The theater, which presents touring Broadway shows and produces its own summer musical festival of seven shows, hiring scores of actors and designers who commonly work in New York, has no policy against employees being politically active or making political contributions, Lewis said. He dismissed the notion that Eckern could be fired for backing Prop. 8 or that it would be allowable under California employment law.

-- Mike Boehm

Photos: Marc Shaiman, top; Jeff Whitty, with Tony Award

Photo credits: Shaiman, Al Seib / Los Angeles Times; Whitty, Jeff Christensen / Reuters

Comments () | Archives (152)

whats wrong with boycotting?
If a business owner or some one important to a company thought it was okay to take away the rights of gay people,
wouldn't it make sense for the gay community to boycott those businesses?

call it what you will.
we're all human..

People write of other people "just expressing their views" in supporting Prop 8, as if it didn't deeply affect anyone -- as if it weren't a cruel rejection of an entire class of individuals who have been abused by the dominant society for so long. I am not gay, but I have always been distressed by segregation and discrimination, irrespective of which particular group was being victimized. People who "just express their views", with no particular concern for the hurtful nature of those expressions, are suggesting some level of hurt to themselves in being rejected for taking the positions they do. How ironic.

- said: "many married heterosexual couples do not have children, either voluntarily (don't want them) or involuntarily (infertility, age, etc.)"

I wonder what percentage of heterosexual couples either choose not to have children or are unable to have children without outside help.

What percentage homosexual couples cannot have children without outside help?

Is having children a requirement to be married? No. Is having children the purpose for society to establish marriage? Absolutely, yes. So then a society must ask: which type of marriage is most likely to produce children?

Yes to promoting, teaching and encouraging loving, stable, faithful families.
Yes to values of acceptance, love of neighbor and inclusion.
Yes to gay children having every hope of a life free from discrimination, hatred, feelings of inferiority, fear for physical safety etc.

No to redefining marriage.

Why does my stance on protecting marriage automatically mean that I hate, or threaten others' safety or have feelings of superiority? I honestly can't think of anyone that I hate. There are poeple that do things that I disagree with, but that doesn't mean that I hate them. However, just because I accept someone as a person and do my best to respect their freedom to choose to live their life as they would like, that does not mean that I must accept and embrace every decision that they make.

I respect every person's right to live the way they choose until it infringes on my right to live the way I choose. That is where I must draw the line. Society must draw the line. That is what defines a society.

"Let's start talking about how to create a boycott against all gay businesses in California. " Mr. Monroe

Right. Because we all know that you have been such a big supporter of the gay community. Perhaps you should familiarize yourself with the concept of a boycott. You cannot boycott something that you did not previously support or patronize. You saying you are going to boycott the gay community is like vegetarians suddenly announcing a boycott on the beef industry, doesn't quite have the same impact, does it.

Gays have been fired from jobs, denied housing, discharged from the military, had our businesses raided by police, harrassed on the street, beaten and murdered because of our orientation. I'd like to see what else you can come up with that hasn't already been done.

In addition, a boycott is nothing more than a conscious decision not to spend money or patronize a certain establishment or business. Its our money. Do you really have the gall to me how and where I can spend my money?

I think it is essential that the gay community and their friends refuse to attend weddings while they are exclusively defined as heterosexual coupling ceremonies. If heteros can turn their churches into political fund-raising organizations (while illegally claiming tax-exempt status--only churches are protected, not political interest groups--let's give the money to the real churches doing good works, not the sham ones) in order to spend millions to distort a state vote, then while discrimination is temporarily legal, it is imperative that we do not support these exclusive heterosexual rituals. Again, we are only talking state and federal laws here, since many churches condone gay marriage and in fact have performed countless such ceremonies in the past.

I say, let them have their heterosexual ritual for now, with their homophobic bigoted hate-filled good 'ole boys in attendance. We do not need to be there or support those would would deny us our constitutional protections.

I sincerely admire Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for their announcement that they would not marry until it is a basic right for all.

Melissa Etheredge is dead-on correct. Why should gays pay taxes to a state that denies them their constitutionally protected pursuit of happiness and indeed basic selection of spouse?

A number of years ago, when my partner had cancer, I was denied hospital visitation to him because I was not "family" (as defined by marriage). He was delerious and could give no medical background or information himself, so his medical care certainly suffered directly as a result. I remember this needless suffering always. Now some years after his demise, I am still as full of anger and hate as I was during that time--that a marriage ceremony could be afforted such power, unfairly. (It occurs to me that blacks did not get far in our society until they resorted to burning buildings and rioting in the streets--is this perhaps where we need to be headed?)

Naturally, I now regard heterosexuals with suspicion and old anger--it is doubtful that I could ever hire one.

The equal application of the law is vital. Gay people are full contributors to this society, paying taxes and risking their lives in war zones--to be treated as non-citizens, indeed non-people, at home is unacceptable.

“what about if instead of "all" members of a society being either straight or gay, we say "some" - that way, no threat to survival of species”

My point is from biology standpoint, sex is for reproduction. So sex is between male and female. Sex between same sex has no purpose from biology/evolution standpoint. This is what I meant when I said traditional marriage and gay marriage are not the same because of biology.

Since when is music and acting "gay"? Isn't that the view of rednecks?

Gays and rednecks in lock-step agreement! LOL. What's next? KKK and blacks marching down Main Street together?

What of the loneliest minority of all: the straight artist?

"I respect every person's right to live the way they choose until it infringes on my right to live the way I choose. That is where I must draw the line. Society must draw the line. That is what defines a society."

Mr or Ms No Name's statement above inadvertently made a terrifically strong argument as to why his/her otherwise noble-sounding (to him- or herself) position on forbidding gays to marry was wrong-headed, hostile and undemocratic.

[And, please note, that not only am I not gay but I am also embarrassed that the gay community is not supported by all supposed freedom-loving heterosexuals.]

To all the pro Prop h8r's: As Whoopi Goldberg so wonderfully stated, "If you're against gay marriage, don't marry a gay person."

ALL 50 States have Demonstrations against Prop 8 on Saturday N0V 15th

link has locations and information

NYC had 10,000 at their demonstration .....BRAVO!

The restaurants who donated to YES on Prop 8 should have demonstrations out front asking patrons,

" would you like an order of HATE with your burger?"

This is disgusting and I am ashamed to be an American. We live in a free county and yet are demonized for voicing our individual opinions and moral beliefs....it makes me sick!

So, let me get this...if you don't agree with the deveant homosexuals, then you are evil and stupid and don't support rights? Wow, what country do I live in again? I thought people voted and it is clear...YES ON PROP 8!

So, basically, what I think is that the American people's voice doesn't count, so therefore, we don't live in a free country anymore, right? I say we retaliate and start our own Blacklist against the homosexuals!

Prop. 8 is not anit-gay, it's to keep the sanctity of marriage - as it has been for centuries. If it's anti-gay, then it's also anti-polygamy, anti-bestiality, and so forth.

Eckern made a choice that he alienated his parters, employees, and audience.

They have in response made a choice to disavow him professionally and financially.

Both sides have exercised their rights fairly.

No matter how you spin it, this issue is about changing the definition of marriage. Period. Marriage has always been defined as a union of a man and a women for thousands of years. Some people in our society still take this union seriously. The people of California have determined (twice now) that they want this to remain as it has been for thousands of years.

The truth is everyone has the same right to married. You just have to follow the definition. Not following the definition is your CHOICE.

Homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, etc. is a CHOICE! It seems the gay community wants all of us to believe that this is a the dame as a race or gender discrimination issue.

If you CHOOSE not be heterosexual and you want the right to be married, it seems the better direction to take is to create your own definition and get it into law.

But I thought gays already have the same rights as heterosexuals in this regards. I think it's called Civil Union.

It seems if you already have the same rights then this fight is not about marriage at all. Thats what scares me.

Don, sorry my name didn't post with my comment for some reason.

What, exactly, in my comment is so wrong-headed, hostile, or undemocratic? Also, apparently, I am against freedom because I am against the redefinition of marriage.

I will help complete your argument for you. I argued that I think others should be free to live how they want until they infringe on my rights. I think this statement is pretty clear. Our laws of property and personal safety are based on the idea that we can each do whatever we want until we hurt someone else's person or property. I think we can agree on that summary of the laws of society.

Where we don't agree is on the damage done to society by the redefinition of marriage. You would probably say that it has no effect on me or anyone else in society that is already in a traditional marriage. I would disagree with that idea. How can we alter the basis for the fundamental unit of society (the traditional family formed by the marriage of a man and a woman) without fundamentally altering society for everyone?

No society has ever tried this before, so I can't point to historical evidence of how harmful it would be. The only thing we can look to is the strong evidence that children raised in a family with a mother and a father do much better in life, on average, than those who are not raised in that environment. Are you willing to experiment with an entire society to find out if allowing same-sex marriage would be detrimental?

Just because someone does not believe the same way that you do does not mean they hate you. Do gay people hate all Mormons because a majority of funds supporting Prop 8 was raised by them? Prop 8 was going down in flames and it was the vote of African Americans and Hispanic Americans who came out to support Barack Obama that tipped it. Do gay people now hate African American that are conservative Christians and Hispanic Americans that are conservative Catholics? Are only supporters of the LGBT community allowed to work in the arts or participate in them. Give me a break. Talk about hypocrisy.

This whole thing is not about hate. California has registered domestic partner laws that allow gay people to enter into civil unions and are given the exact same community property rights and protections as straight people. This was a change that has largely been accepted and did not cause fanatical protests. So I don't understand the outrage now. We are talking about the definition of a word. People disagree on what words mean all the time without accusing each other of hate-mongering or demanding that they leave a profession after 25 years of service. The extremists in the gay community have done their movement a disservice and they should be ashamed.

"Gays Bashing Mormons Over Prop 8 Nationwide"
Racist? Bigoted? Hateful? - Not according to the Gay Crowd.
Change the headline to "Mormons bashing Gays" - you would never hear the end of it!
Sorry, the Gay Agenda is one big hypocritical group.
Time to start BOYCOTTING Gay businesses and shutting them down.

wow, unbelievable. The gay community show its true colors of hatred, bigoty and great intolerance toward those who have a different opinion. Hypocritical, isn't it? Marriage is not a "civil" right. It never has been and never will be. Marriage is biological alone - man and woman coming together to raise a family. Don't let them silence our voice. No matter how full of hatred they become. Stand quiet and with kindness continue to speak out your views. Persecution always comes to those who stand for what is good.


"I respect every person's right to live the way they choose until it infringes on my right to live the way I choose." Quoting you again. Don't you see? (Perhaps you don't WANT to see.) It is YOU who is infringing on the rights of people to live the way they choose and not be punished for it. Why is that not clear?

In any case, if we take the long view, there are always tortured arguments justifying discrimination and exclusion. It was done during slavery and segregation. It was done in persecution of the Jews. It was done in denying women their voting rights until about eighty-five years ago. It is always done until, eventually society becomes more enlightened. People like you who think they are "just expressing their views" and are rational-reasonable, good people hide (even perhaps from themselves) their discriminatory inclinations behind their seeming reasonableness and ignore the very real toll that their positions take on the victims of such discrimination.

As for me, I have not the slightest concern about any supposed damage to our society by giving gays the same rights that I have, any more than I would have advocated (as many people did) "protecting society" by denying African-Americans, Jews, women or anyone else those rights.

But, it is all temporary. Just like the other groups I mentioned who were beaten back time after time before securing their full measure of freedom, so will our currently marginalized gay citizens eventually gain theirs. It's just a matter of time and the very gradual awakening of true compassion among more and more people in our society.

« | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 | »


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.