CommunityPam's House Blend

Reminder: Triangle folks please buy tix for "The Laramie Project" to counter-protest Phelps


Durham School of the Arts photo by James Jirtle & Elizabeth Tencer

“It is a tacky, substandard, cheap and banal effort to glamorize what is essentially a sinful boy’s life,” Phelps said. “That boy lived in sin and died in sin and is in Hell now. Fags use the play as a propaganda tool to recruit young Americans to emulate Matt Shepard.”

— Rev. Fred “The Rotting CryptkeeperTM” Phelps

This week, on May 6 and 7 our friend, Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church, will be picketing “the fag-infested Durham School of the Arts and The Laramie Project fag propaganda play” at the 7:30 shows.

The local paper, the Durham Herald-Sun, reported on April 9 that Phelps does personally plan to attend the Durham demonstration, along with 12 to 15 family members and supporters. It wasn’t clear that he would turn up, since he often just sends some of his many grandchildren to events all over the place. Of course he also hopes to bring out the local bigots, but he’s not likely to find much support here.

But Ian Palmquist, executive director of Equality North Carolina, said Phelps’ visits sometimes served to help the gay community. Heterosexuals, Palmquist said, often are appalled by Phelps’ message and decide to help support gay causes.

“Most North Carolinians will be shocked to see this sort of hateful language that Fred Phelps and his supporters use, regardless of what those citizens feel about gay rights issues,” Palmquist said. “The Phelps family has really made a career out of traveling the country with their message of hatred, but surprisingly, it does the gay community more good than bad.”

…One student said the cast had no plans to change the date of the performance. In fact, Phelps’ visit has motivated the cast to put on a successful show, the student said. “What Phelps says speaks for itself, and what we are saying with our play speaks for itself,” said Elizabeth French, the show’s assistant director and a senior at DSA. “We are now compelled to make this the best play we can make it. Our theater department does really compelling, interesting and mind-opening plays, and we are not afraid to put our thoughts out there for the plays we choose to do.”

I’ve been in touch today with the director of the upcoming production, Doug Graves. [Doug’s also a former neighbor of mine; small world, isn’t it?] He updated me on the goings-on regarding Fred Phelps and his hate machine’s intention to picket the event. Doug passed on this request to local House Blenders:

We have had such a tremendous outpouring from the community in light of this press. A majority of folks actually buy a ticket – but some just call to find out when he will be there so they can come and “counter protest”, and they hang up without buying a ticket. We have sold A LOT of tickets (we’re sold out Friday and Saturday night) – but we have TONS of tickets available for Thursday night and Saturday Mat.

I truly feel that the BEST “counter protest” is buy a ticket to see the show and don’t engage with Rev. ***hole. Inside that theatre are incredibly talented and brave students doing their best to teach their audiences lessons in tolerance. It will be very disappointing to play to empty seats – when Phelps drew a full house AND a sidewalk full of folks wanting to get a look at some hate-monger from half-way across the country.

We should take our cue from the play (as Romaine Patterson so courageously did) and stand with our backs to him and stand in silence – engaging him in banter would be disruptive to our play. PLEASE encourage people to BUY A TICKET to the show – Thursday at 7:30 and Saturday at 3:00 – and support these kids. Our GSA group will be there and we will be taking donations for the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

The Durham School of the Arts Box Office is (919) 560-3926 ext. 23252. Kate and I plan to attend the Saturday matinee, and will be around to document the protest and counterprotest activities. We will bring our signs left over from the pathetic Straight Pride parade in Chapel Hill last year:


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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding