Pittsburgh Community Theatre Cancels BIG FISH Following Director's Inclusion Of Gay Ensemble Characters

UPDATE: The creators of Big Fish have released a statement in support of LGBT representation in the show. Read more here!

The Palisade Playhouse, a Pittsburgh community theatre, has canceled their upcoming production of BIG FISH after the director and several performers quit following a dispute with the producing team over the inclusion of gay ensemble characters in the background of a scene set in Central Park.

The theatre released the following statement via their Facebook page:

It is with deep sadness that Palisade Playhouse announces a decision to halt production of the upcoming musical "Big Fish".

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.

In an effort to show genuine acceptance and welcome all, an initial compromise had been made upfront to include two gay fathers holding a baby and walking across
stage as part of a scene with a bustling park setting. The direction shifted with blocking and scene direction that would have created an additional moment of reflection between the lead character and the gay parents during an emotionally charged song about the feelings of 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.

As a result of the dispute, the director resigned and some cast members followed, creating a divide between the producers, directors, cast
and crew, and igniting a fiery discussion on social media in the days following. Additionally, a campaign to disparage the reputation of the Playhouse emerged, and it soon became clear that working in harmony to produce the show on time and within budget would no longer be possible. Without the ability to move forward as planned, the Playhouse will face a significant financial loss and face the possibility of closing permanently.

Since its founding in July 2016, people
of all different walks of life and with diverse views and beliefs have existed harmoniously and cooperatively within the Playhouse. Throughout this time, the Playhouse successfully produced a variety of family-friendly musicals, a host of choir concerts and events, and was fully immersed in the current 2018 season of shows, concerts and events. All shows were produced and planned with the intention to be welcoming to all, regardless of personal beliefs and views. Many people in the area had happily received the benefit of these offerings.

Palisade Playhouse's founders grieve with those who feel hurt by this decision, but also grieve because of the intolerance and the spite with which they were treated as well. Palisade Playhouse remains true to its founding ideals, and for that reason, Palisade maintains the need as an organization to maintain a level of neutrality on this issue and many other issues, so that all people may feel welcome.

Many took to their Facebook comments to express anger and dismay at the decision.

One commenter, Joanna Obuzor, wrote "Why did it take a compromise to include this scene in the musical? Your statement seems to be a clear illustration of the bias and bigotry of the producing partners."

Another commenter, Samantha Story-Camp writes "I am of the opinion that you are allowed to believe and have faith in any way that you choose and I will defend to the death your right to do that. However, the second that your beliefs somehow diminish or Invalidate someone else's right to exist freely then you and I have a problem. There is absolutely nothing that is not "family friendly" about same sex parents. Nobody would be harmed by seeing 2 loving dads. No one is stopping you from doing what you want to do but if you're going to have an organization that is limited by your faith structure then you need to be upright about that at the onset because it is unfair to bring in people and not let them in on it and not let them make The Choice whether they feel comfortable being a part of it or not. That was the mistake you made. Not the beliefs as much (although I wholeheartedly disagree with you) you do have a right to your beliefs. But to bring people in and not let them know the parameters by which you were going to do this is grossly unfair. You are not the victims in this particular situation. Did people blow it out of proportion? Absolutely they did but you have to live with the ramifications of the decisions that you made and you made those decisions and did not give your actors and your director a fair shake from the onset. I know no one personally involved with this. I am basing this entirely on what I'm reading in your statement."

Big Fish was scheduled to run June 15 through June 30th.

BroadwayWorld was unable to reach the venue at press time for comment.

Want to get in touch? Drop us a line at social [at] broadwayworld.com.

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