USA: Theatre artistic director re-instated after nude scene controversy

Burgess Clark, artistic director of Boston Children’s Theatre, returned to his position after having been suspended due to controversy over a nude scene in a production of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ that the director refused to remove, reported The Boston Globe on 10 May 2017.

Two board members had demanded the director remove the nude scene from the play’s final performances, which Clark refused to do, saying he would rather resign.

The newspaper reported the suspension on 6 May 2017. At the time, Clark called the demand a form of attempted censorship, saying that: “Censorship is a much larger issue than one organisation. If I lose my job, it was worth it.”

US-based freedom of expression organisation National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) had called on the theatre to re-instate Burgess, stating that “creative decisions are for the artistic director to make, and must not be compromised by the moral qualms of a few community members”.

The organisation explained that the play had had a successful run in late April and “audiences were adequately warned of the play’s adult language and brief display of nudity ahead of time”.

Theatre staff had gone on strike to protest the suspension, but returned once Clark was re-instated; however, two trustees of the company have resigned, as well as three board members.

The theatre’s executive director and producer Toby Schine told The Boston Globe that in the future the artistic side of the theatre would communicate more with the board on issues like onstage nudity.

Peggy Baressi, one of the board member who objected to the nude scene, told the newspaper that several board members questioned the use of nudity and why the board was not informed, rather than this being a censorship attempt.

“The objection was about not following due process. There was never a dictate from the board to censor the nudity,” Baressi said.

The controversial scene featured an actor who appeared on stage stage naked for 25 seconds.


» National Coalition Against Censorship – 10 May 2017
NCAC demands Boston theatre company reinstate artistic director suspended for play involving nudity

» The Boston Globe – 10 May 2017
Director at center of nudity storm returns to besieged Boston Children’s Theatre

» The Boston Globe – 6 May 2017
Artistic director caught in storm over nude scene at Boston Children’s Theatre

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