News Articles

Baptist college tones down language in Tennessee Williams production

WINGATE, N.C. (BP)–Wingate University toned down the language in a Tennessee Williams’ play on campus after receiving complaints about the production.
“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” was the debut play in the Baptist-affiliated college’s Hannah Covington McGee Theatre, which is named for Wingate President Jerry McGee’s wife, who died Feb. 28.
The play ran Oct. 28-30. A reviewer for the Monroe (N.C.) Enquirer Journal wrote that Williams’ play touches upon issues of sexual promiscuity, alcoholism and homosexuality, praising Larry Coleman, the director of Wingate’s theater department, for presenting it “as written, without compromising the content and artistic integrity of the production.”
Scott Spencer, a Wingate religion professor, used profanity and other crude language in the role of “Big Daddy,” according to the review, which was based on a dress rehearsal before the play opened.
The reviewer also recounted that Wingate students Tanya Kagarise and Jonathan Wear appeared in nightgown- and underwear-like garments.
C.J. Bordeaux, pastor of West Monroe Baptist Church in Monroe, told the Biblical Recorder, the state Baptist newsjournal, that he tried to contact McGee to complain about the play after reading the review. Gary Underwood, the church’s minister of education, meanwhile, wrote a letter to McGee asking him to call for the resignation of Coleman and Scott and for the dismissal of Kagarise.
McGee declined to act on that request, but did tell theater officials to clean up the play or there would be no more performances.
“I wish it had never happened,” McGee told the Biblical Recorder. “It did and we reacted quickly and appropriately.” McGee said Coleman apologized to the audience at the show’s performance on Oct. 29.
“Going forward, no plays will be presented in the theater without prior approval of administration,” McGee said. “Our trust has been violated so we’ll have to put them under more scrutiny.”
Jenny Rokosz, Wingate’s director of public relations, said the play was not meant to offend anyone, but to underscore the theme of tolerance. “I think in retrospect we should have not used the language, but overall it’s a very good play,” she said. “It’s certainly not meant to go against Christianity or anything like that, just to make people think.”
McGee spoke to the Union Baptist Association pastors’ conference Nov. 2. He apologized and asked the ministers for forgiveness, said Dennis Burton, the association’s director of missions.
Burton said McGee wasn’t scheduled to talk to the pastors but asked to speak. McGee felt pain over the situation particularly because the play was the first in the theater named for his late wife, Burton said.
McGee told about 25 pastors at the meeting that he supported Baptist life and Baptist churches, Burton recounted. The 25 pastors at the meeting, who represented the entire spectrum of Baptist life, gave McGee a standing ovation, Burton said.
Burton said he has not heard much concern about the issue from area churches since McGee spoke to the pastors.
“He stood up and apologized and asked for forgiveness,” Burton said. “What more could he do?”

    About the Author

  • Steve DeVane