By Lorcan Otway
In the 1950s, my father wrote a book, the Evangelist. It was a novel based on his experiences with the Salvation Army as a child. It made some of the many blacklists of the period, branded “anti-Christian” and the work of a “communist.” The book was pulled from a number of libraries and burned.
In October of 1960, Richard Buckley, Lord Buckley, was stopped in mid act, at The Jazz Gallery, now Theatre 80. His Cabaret Card was removed by the Vice Squad of the NYPD. A short time later, after going to the police to demand it back, he died under circumstances which led many to believe he was beaten to death by the police. This began a free speech fight, which eventually ended the Cabaret Card system.
In both these cases I believe the censorship was wrong and the speaker was right. However, my standard of right and wrong does not govern what goes on our stage any more than I believe the standards of the police or the Christian Right should have governed my father’s opportunities to be read (or red.)
Today, several people are upset that Gilad Atzmon is renting my theatre. Others, may be offended by other shows. I invite speech to be answered by speech. My standard is that of the Metzger case. I will not tolerate calls for racial violence from the stage. Gilad knows, and it is no secret, that I don't hold many of his views, and I opposed his speaking at Friend's School, unchallenged on his views of the nazi atrocities against the Jewish people. But, I believe in answering speech with speech.
Theatre 80 is a commercial theater and will be available to those who pay. There is a not for profit, of which I am the CEO, that provides support for projects which should be on our stage but cannot afford to pay the full amount or at all. The standard there is different.
Theatre 80 Saint Marks