A New York City theatre event intended to address censorship of arts and culture has been reinstated, after critically acclaimed screenwriter and filmmaker Neil LaBute agreed to scrap a performance that was deemed potentially offensive to Muslims.
The “Playwrights for a Cause” event was set to feature four new short plays about censorship of the arts on June 14 at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in Greenwich Village.
However, Sheen Center executive director William Spencer Reilly pulled the plug on the show at his non-sectarian venue May 12, due to the content of a Neil LaBute monologue, which is titled, Mohammed Gets a Boner.
Reilly told the New York Times May 15: “When an artistic project maligns any faith group, that project clearly falls outside of our mission to highlight the good, the true, and the beautiful as they have been expressed throughout the ages.”
Deadline reported Wednesday the showcase will now go on as planned June 14 at the New York Theatre Workshop, but without LaBute’s act.
The noted playwright and filmmaker released a statement explaining that he did not want Mohammed Gets a Boner to detract from “the fine work that Erik Ehn, Halley Feiffer and Israel Horovitz were also presenting that evening…and the cause of the evening itself,” per Deadline.
The Sheen Center green-lit the event in February, but Reilly told the Times he had only become aware of the title of Mohammed Gets a Boner last week, after a staff member noticed it online.
Reilly then read the script and decided to cancel the event altogether for what he described as a “clear offense to Muslims.”
LaBute’s one-person act was written specifically for the event and was to be about an actor asked to perform in an offensive satire. A description reads: “The prophet ‘Mohammed’ stands on a barren stage, recalling the first time he made love to a white woman. Is this reality or a theatrical convention? Where do the lines between ‘satire’ and ‘censorship’ intersect or is nothing sacred when it comes to the theater?”
After the cancelation, LaBute pointed out the hypocrisy in scrapping an event meant to shed light on censorship, and pointed out the Sheen Center uses the phrase, “for thought and culture.”
“Both in life and in the arts, this is not a time to hide or be afraid; recent events have begged for artists and citizens to stand and be counted,” he said after the cancellation of the event.
“Playwrights for a Cause” is a benefit for the National Coalition Against Censorship.