Tag Archives: Martin Luther College

Theater owner bends to creationists’ demands, cancels “Inherit the Wind”

From the Minneapolis City Pages:

The New Ulm Actors Community Theater has decided to cancel its planned production of “Inherit the Wind” thanks to pressure from local evangelicals who object to the way the play portrays the evolution/creationism debate.

And from the New Ulm Journal:

NEW ULM – The New Ulm Actors Community Theatre’s production of “Inherent the Wind” was canceled last week due to cast dropouts stemming from objections by Martin Luther College professors and local WELS members over the play’s depiction of the evolution/creationism debate.

A typical day in New Ulm, Minnesota.
A typical day in New Ulm, Minnesota.
NUACT originally slated the play as its fall production with MLC student Zach Stowe as director. The play deals with a fictionalized version of the evolution/creationism debate in the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial.” The play is also a metaphor for criticizing the suppression of free expression under the McCarthyism of the 1950s.

So, this was college professors who are normally about academic freedom and such acting like McCarthy about a play that among other things criticizes McCarthyism.

After seeing the poster for the audition, several MLC professors raised objections about the play’s subject to the administration.

Jeffrey Schone, MLC’s VP of Student Life, declined to name the objecting professors, but stated the administration similarly became concerned about being associated with the play.

The college is part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the above mentioned “WELS.” They hold Genesis as literally true. Ironically, the court case depicted in this play found in favor of the creationist argument made at the time. These people, the WELS people, are not only medieval they are also ignorant and offensive.

“We felt it was not compatible with what [the school] teaches the Bible says about the universe and the world,”? said Schone. “This is a ministerial school. People employing our students need confidence about their views.”

Which, of course, is best managed by not allowing anyone to be exposed to anything but the standard approved dogma. Good luck with that in 21st century America!

Schone, being all magnanamous and stuff, told the director that the play audition for the play could be held off campus. How nice of him to acknowledge that his draconian reach ends at the boundary of the backwards thinking private school he is VP of student activities for.

But, things did not end there. Members of the broader community of Yahoos living in the quite little Minnesota town of New Ulm harassed director Stowe into pulling the plug on the whole project. On September 3rd,

…Stowe resigned from the play. He cited a flood of e-mails and letters objecting to his association with the play from MLC professors and local WELS members for his decision. He was also concerned that MLC administration would maybe take their concerns further if the outcry kept growing, so he decided to focus on the more important issue of his schooling.

The Dark Ages.
The Dark Ages.
However, he said he felt his creative freedom had been stifled and that he was very disappointed that some of the criticism seemed to come from MLC. He said he shares WELS’ belief in creationism. He said he believes open discussion about the topic is essential to proving its validity.

Well, he’s benighted but half way out of that hole, maybe. We’ll see.

But it didn’t end there; apparently the harassment continued because ….

…In the following two weeks, six NUACT members dropped out of the cast after consulting their WELS pastors or officials about being in the play after Stowe’s departure.

On Sept. 16, the NUACT board voted to postpone the show indefinitely due to insufficient time to replace and retrain the lost staff before Oct. 4, which would have been opening night. NUACT Executive Director Paul Warshauer said the group still hopes to put on “Inherit the Wind,” but no date has been determined.

Schone said he feels MLC did not put any pressure on Stowe or the NUACT cast. But, he said he feels it is appropriate for the college to voice concerns about the extracurricular activities of its students.

Schone’s only regret was the timing of the decision due to when the administration learned about the audition. He said he apologized to NUACT for the inconvenience. He said NUACT and Stowe can use the MLC campus for future plays, and that the concerns were only with the content of “Inherit the Wind.”

Indeed. Next time you want to do something subversive, LET US KNOW IN ADVANCE.

I weep for New Ulm.