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GREENFIELD (KDKA) — The show won’t go on at a Greenfield community theater after the director and the producers got into a dispute over adding LGBT characters to the show.
When Matt and Michelle Belliston purchased the old Presbyterian church in Greenfield, they had a vision of a family-friendly community theater.
“We bought this building about a year ago to produce family-friendly community theater,” Matt Belliston says in a video on their Facebook page. “I grew up with a community theater near me that edited shows to make it appropriate for all ages, PG shows, and I really liked that.”
A production of the musical “Big Fish” was scheduled to run at the Palisade Playhouse from June 15 to June 30, but rehearsals were halted mid-May.
According to a statement on the Palisade Playhouse website, the director of the show wanted to added two gay fathers to a scene where the lead character is reflecting on becoming a father for the first time.
“This added moment of focus created question about whether the director’s addition would convey a message about gay marriage in a way that would be seen as inclusive to some but exclusive to others,” Palisade Playhouse said.
After the dispute, the director, Nik Nemec, and some cast members resigned, and the Bellistons decided to cancel the production.
“The decision to cancel ‘Big Fish’ comes on the heels of a dispute between the director and co-founding producers over how to proactively insert representation of an LGBT+ family despite the fact that the script did not include any reference to the LGBT+ community,” the Playhouse’s statement said.
In a statement sent to theatre news website BroadwayWorld, John August and Andrew Lippa, the creators of the musical, expressed their support for the director’s decision:
“That’s correct; nowhere in the script does it say that any character is gay or lesbian or trans. But nor does it say they aren’t. A director’s decision to signal that two silent characters are same-sex parents isn’t changing the text. It’s providing context and framing. It’s directing.”
The Playhouse’s statement on the show’s cancellation received nearly hundreds of responses on their Facebook page.
Neither Matt nor Michelle Belliston have responded to KDKA-TV’s requests for interviews. Nemec says he has no comment.