Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Forgiving the Just Festival

I sometimes think that the key to surviving as an artist in this extraordinary hostile world is not simply one’s talent or skill; but one’s capacity to forgive.

Forgive, especially, those who reject you or are vile to you. 

And there will be many of those.

My plan this year was to present my GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS QUEEN OF HEAVEN in response to an invitation to the Just Festival.

It was the third time they’d invited me. Each time they’d got cold feet at the last minute; but this year looked like it would be different. 

There was a plan to make trans people and spirituality the theme of the Festival. I felt to hopeful.

Until the script was sent to the Just Festival Committee. Who eventually told me:

The play represents Jesus, God made flesh, in the flesh of a transsexual woman and the board felt that this was an interesting and engaging concept that is certainly worthy of exploration and that to do so in a church would make a powerful statement.  It would require people who profess faith in "God made human" to consider what it means for God to become incarnate and to take part fully in the human experience, the experience of all humans regardless of their gender identity...  “

Which I guess was a promising start. However, it doesn’t take much experience of rejection notes to know that there’s a nasty 'but' around the corner:

...”However, to do justice to the subject matter, the Board felt that the play would need to be rewritten from scratch.  This is because that the Board felt that there were issues with the script that were too great for the existing script simply to be re-worked, that the play requires more than simply certain lines or passages to be excised or re-written.”

The Board never really managed to make clear what these issues were; and even if they had, I expect I would have been too angry and hurt to listen.

This letter arrived in February, when it  seemed to me to be too late to find another venue for the show. My rage was so intense that i wanted so fiercely to denounce them.

Accuse them of hypocrisy and cowardice and worse. Remind them that Jesus said “Those who are not for me are against me” (Luke 11:23) and say how sad that they should be siding with the likes of the Russian Orthodox Church and he Southern Baptist Convention in seeking to silence me.

While I don’t know the members of the Committee personally, I do know members of St. John’s Congregation. In fact some of them are my oldest friends. And I know them to be decent, sincere people doing their best to do good in the world.

I like their Rector too, Markus Dunzkofer. He seems like a decent man.

Thinking of all this stayed my hand. And I’m glad. The internet is so full of hatred and denunciations, and I don’t want to add to them.

Strange to come to that conclusion and then eventually, and a bit painfully, click on the Just Festival website and find forgiveness is the theme of their festival.

Dear them. And I remember Jesus, too, advised us to “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:44). Three days into rehearsal, and I am trying to understand him. Impossible, obviously; but try to feel, even if remotely, what it might be like to be him.

It was Rev Fiona Bennett. of Augustine Untied Church  ( who encouraged me; and Rev Maud Robinson ( who found us their space. 

And I owe them so many thanks.

But maybe I should thank the Just Festival too. For it was them who initially helped me overcome my fears and hesitations and resistances and make me determined to put the show on.

So thank you, Just Festival, for all my rage at you. I wish you success.

And I hope we both manage to light even a little light in this dark world.

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