DETROIT FREE PRESS
April 27, 2007
SVSU will continue run of ‘Angels
in America’ despite protests
by Dawson Bell
Free Press Lansing Bureau
A Saginaw Valley State University production of “Angels in America,” the controversial gay-themed play about the AIDS epidemic, will continue its run despite protests from critics that it is obscene and hostile to religion, SVSU President Eric Gilbertson said Friday.
Gilbertson said he also has no plans to heed a call from state Rep. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township, that he resign for authorizing what Brandenburg called a “repulsive and gratuitous” stage show.
Gilbertson said his refusal to intervene was an issue of academic freedom and free expression. The play is undoubtedly offensive to some people, he said Friday.
“But I think I would have to resign if I didn’t protect my students” from the outside critics, Gilbertson said.
The SVSU production of the Tony- and Pulitzer-Prize winning play includes male nudity and, according to news reports, liberal use of the F-word.
Brandenburg said comments by the plays director — that the university theatre was the only theatre in mid-Michigan that could get away with the performance because it did not rely on gate receipts to survive — were especially galling.
“Taxpaying citizens should not have to subsidize this garbage,” Brandenburg said in a statement released Thursday.
Gilbertson said he received a barrage of critical email about “Angels” before it opened last week, and he posted an open letter on the subject on the school’s website (http://www.svsu.edu/president/speech.cfm?doc_id=5534) explaining his position.
But Gilbertson said he is a bit puzzled over the furor. At least four other Michigan public universities hosted productions of Angels in America since 1999 without significant uproar, he said.
Gilbertson said he had not yet seen the play but planned to attend the Friday evening performance.