Residents pressure public college to defund play about gay men featuring nude actors
Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) has come under scrutiny this past week from residents and trustees for financially supporting a play about the lives of gay men featuring a nude actor.
“Love! Valour! Compassion,” a play about eight gay men that discusses AIDS, infidelity, and love, featured at the GRCC’s Spectrum Theater late this past September through the independent community theater group Actor’s Theater.
Although technically independent, the Actor’s Theater received $19,000 in school funding to host the production this year, according to MLive.com.
Local residents told MLive they do not want their tax dollars to fund a sexually explicit production.
Burt Bleke, a member of the GRCC trustee board who spoke on behalf of the school told Campus Reform in a phone interview on Wednesday student fees do not fund the theater and the college has generally not interfered with their productions.
“The college has always had a hands off policy towards what is produced by actors theater, we really do not intend to be a referee that’s a job nobody wants so it’s really been hands off,” he said.
“It’s kind of a typical college town issue where you have this tension between academic freedom and people in the educational community pushing the edges and perhaps a more conservative constituency within the community,” he added.
Joan Ridderbos, a local resident said the school was endorsing nudity “as entertainment or education and is using our tax dollars to do this.”
“I would dare anyone at this table to read certain sections of this play from this board table,” said Richard Ryskamp, a GRCC Trustee who supports defunding the theater. “I don’t think that you would be able to get it through your teeth,” he added.
Jolene Frankey, the director, defended the play and told local ABC News affiliate WZZM it’s about more than just the nudity.
"Not everyone is going to feel the same way about it, and that is the point, so if we challenged people, made you think a little bit, feel some things you didn't expect we think we've done our job,” she said.
Warnings are posted throughout the theater alerting viewers of the explicit nature of the event.
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