August 2, 2008

No Public Money Used for You’re Eating God

By Channing Gray

The Catholic League, the nation's largest organization devoted to defending the church against defamation and discrimination, said yesterday that it is relieved to learn that public money is not being used to fund a controversial play about Catholics at Brown University.

But a league spokeswoman, Susan Fani, said her organization still finds the show by Rachel Caris objectionable.

"Obviously we are happy if there is no public funding being used for this anti-Catholic production," said Fani. "Nevertheless, this type of production is offensive to the Catholic community of Rhode Island and elsewhere."

The one-woman play, written and performed by Rachel Caris and called You're Eating God, depicts members of a 1960s Catholic family who live in a bomb shelter. A couple of characters talk to a statue of the Virgin Mary, and one, after months underground with dwindling supplies of Spam, devours a pile of Eucharist hosts.

It was this satirical view of the church that drew the ire of Catholic League president Bill Donohue, who was under the impression that the show was supported by public money from National Endowment for the Arts, the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and the city of Providence.

In a story in yesterday's Journal, he called the project a "total rip off," and said panels should review shows before public funds are granted.

But Lowry Marshall, who runs the summer theater program at Brown, said as far as she knows no public outside funds are used to support it.

Caris' play, which closes tonight, is one of three offerings this summer from the Brown/Trinity Playwrights Repertory Theatre. The inclusion of "Trinity" in the name of the program apparently led to confusion about funding sources.

Adding to the confusion, a review of the play published in The Journal on July 25 mis-

takenly listed the producer of the production as the Brown/

Trinity Rep Consortium.

Playwrights Rep, which puts on plays by recent Brown graduates, uses actors and directors from the Brown University/Trinity Repertory Consortium, a graduate training program run by the university and Trinity Repertory Company. But that is the extent of the connection, according to a spokeswoman for the theater company. Brown gets no funds for the plays from Trinity, which is partially supported by taxpayer dollars.

Donohue, who was unavailable yesterday, was particularly upset about Caris' treatment of the Eucharist. He said in yesterday's paper that this is the fourth incident in a month nationwide in which the host has been "ridiculed or abused." In one case, a University of Minnesota professor and atheist drove a nail through a host, the wafer eaten by Catholics as a symbol of the body of Christ.

But Marshall, who last month called You're Eating God "one of the most outrageous pieces of theater I've ever seen,"said that clear warnings were issued about the content of the show, and that those easily offended by sexual situations and reglious satire were free not to attend performances.

"I think everyone has a right not to participate in something they don't approve of," she said. [email protected] / (401) 277- 7492

Originally published by Channing Gray, Journal Arts Writer.

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