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Sheen Center Cancels PLAYWRIGHTS FOR A CAUSE Event Due to Offensive Material by Neil LaBute

According to the New York Times, The Sheen Center has announced the cancellation of the anti-censorship event, PLAYWRIGHTS FOR A CAUSE, due to offensive material.

The organization cites its censorship of the event as directly due to the title of Neil LaBute's play, MOHAMMED GETS A BONER, which they say is offensive to Muslims.

About the event, PLAYWRIGHTS FOR A CAUSE wrote, "In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, the political controversy surrounding the release of The Interview, and continued suppression of plays, books, and art in American schools, libraries and museums, the battle for freedom of speech and expression is more essential than ever. Planet Connections Theatre Festivity will present an evening of world premiere plays by Erik Ehn, Halley Feiffer, Israel Horovitz and Neil LaBute addressing censorship in the arts in Playwrights for a Cause, to be held at 7:30pm on June 14, 2015 at the Sheen Center, located at 18 Bleecker Street."

"I'm so happy to be working on a project like this, one that will not only be a fun night of theater but will also directly benefit the National Coalition Against Censorship," said Neil LaBute. "The NCAC is doing really important work at a time when people are actively striving to take away some of our most basic freedoms. I, for one, feel that these are the front lines for an artist--when you are asked to write/fight for what you've said you believe in. It is no longer enough to pay lip service to these ideas--it's time to stand up and be counted."

"The freedoms of speech and expression have consistently been two of the most important principles in this country," noted Planet Connections Founder and PFAC Producing Artistic Curator Glory Kadigan. "Yet the past is littered with examples where works of art have been altered, suppressed or banned outright due to politics and the fear of offending one section or another of society. The purpose of PFAC is to call greater attention to this and show just how big a problem censorship continues to be."

The performances will be followed by a talkback with NCAC and all four playwrights on issues surrounding censorship in the arts. The event concludes with an Opening Night Party which will also celebrate the 2015 Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, which begins June 15. Speeches will be made by a handful of the 2015 artists regarding their work as artists and the importance of art as a tool for social justice. All proceeds from ticket sales for Playwrights for a Cause will benefit the National Coalition Against Censorship, a non-profit advocacy organization.

The world premiere plays being presented at Playwrights for a Cause were:

Three Speech by Erik Ehn
A woman dreams her way through a free-speech scenario, cascading through levels of rage and recollection. What is the relationship between free and the uniquely, preciously valued?

A Play About New Mexico by Halley Feiffer
A young female playwright meets with the Artistic Director of a prominent theater company. The Artistic Director has commissioned a script from her. Or so she thinks.

Breaking Philip Glass by Israel Horovitz
Directed by Glory Kadigan
Paul confronts an art gallery's manager about recently-discovered erotic photos to be featured in the gallery's upcoming exhibition. Paul's mother is the main female model in the photos, shot 50 years earlier. The gallery does not have permission from Paul's family to present the photos -- but that's not going to stop the gallery from exhibiting and promoting previously-unseen work by a world renowned photographer.

Mohammad Gets A Boner by Neil LaBute
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?

The National Coalition Against Censorship's mission is to promote freedom of thought, inquiry and expression and oppose censorship in all its forms. The Coalition formed in response to the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Miller v. California, which narrowed First Amendment protections for sexual expression and opened the door to obscenity prosecutions. Over 40 years, as an alliance of more than 50 national non-profits, including literary, artistic, religious, educational, professional, labor, and civil liberties groups, The Coalition has engaged in direct advocacy and education to support First Amendment principles. The Coalition is unique in that they are national in scope, but often local in approach, and works with community members to resolve censorship controversies without the need for litigation. www.ncac.org

Erik Ehn is the former dean of theater at CalArts, and is currently head of playwriting and professor of theatre and performance studies at Brown University. His published works include The Saint Plays, Beginner, and 13 Christs. He recently collaborated with Janie Geiser on Invisible Glass, which premiered at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater in April 2005. His Soulographie: Our Genocides, a series of 17 plays, was presented as a two-day marathon at La MaMa in 2012. Together the plays examine the relationship of 20th century America to genocide in the United States, Central America, and East Africa. He is co-founder and co-artistic director, alongside Lisa Bielawa, of the Tenderloin Opera Company in San Francisco and also an artistic associate of San Francisco's Theatre of Yugen. He is a co-founder of the RAT movement, an international network of alternative theaters. He was a recipient of the Alpert Award in the Arts in 2002 and the Whiting Writers Award in 1997. He is the founder of an annual conference called Arts in the One World, which brings together performing artists, scholars, and human rights activists to investigate theater on the subject of genocide and reconciliation. He also travels to Rwanda and Uganda annually with students and other professionals, to explore the role of art in recovery from violence.

Halley Feiffer is a writer and actress. Full-length plays include I'm Gonna Pray For You So Hard (Atlantic Theater Company, directed by Trip Cullman), How To Make Friends And Then Kill Them (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, directed by Kip Fagan), Sidney and Laura, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City and Valerie Sweet. Her plays have been developed by Second Stage Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, LAByrinth Theater Company, Cape Cod Theatre Project, the Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, and elsewhere. She is currently working on commissions from Manhattan Theater Club, MTC / Sloan, Playwrights Horizsons and Jen Hoguet Productions. She co-wrote and starred in the 2013 film He's Way More Famous Than You and the webseries What's Your Emergency, both directed by Michael Urie. She won the Theatre World Award for her performance in the Broadway revival of The House of Blue Leaves and was recently seen in the revival of Jon Robin Baitz's The Substance of Fire at Second Stage, directed by Trip Cullman. She currently writes for the upcoming Starz series The One Percent.

Israel Horovitz has written over 70 produced plays, several of which have been translated into as many as 30 languages and performed worldwide. His play Line is now in its 43rd year of continuous performance off-Broadway. Horovitz wrote and directed the 2015 film My Old Lady, starring Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline and Kristen Scott Thomas. He is Founding Artistic Director of Gloucester Stage, and active Artistic Director of the New York Playwrights Lab, and co-artistic director of Compagnia Horovitz-Paciotto in Italy. Mr. Horovitz visits France, frequently, where he often directs French-language productions of his plays. He is the most-produced American playwright in French theatre history, and was recently decorated as Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France's highest honor awarded to foreign artists. NYC's Barefoot Theatre celebrated Horovitz's 70th birthday by organizing The 70/70 Horovitz Project, a year-long event with 70 Horovitz plays having had readings and/or productions by theatres around the globe. He is married to Gillian Adams-Horovitz, former English National Marathon Champion. The Horovitz family divides its time among homes in Gloucester, Massachusetts, NYC's Greenwich Village, and London's Dulwich Village.

Neil LaBute's works include: Bash: Latter-Day Plays (Douglas Fairbanks Theatre, Almeida Theatre), The Shape of Things (Almeida Theatre, Promenade Theatre), The Distance from Here (MCC Theater, Almeida Theatre), The Mercy Seat (MCC Theater, Almeida Theatre), Filthy Talk for Troubled Times (MCC Theater), Fat Pig (MCC Theater, Trafalgar Studios), Autobahn (MCC Theatre), Some Girl(s) (Gielgud Theatre, MCC Theater), This is How it Goes (Donmar Warehouse, The Public Theater), Land of the Dead/Helter Skelter (Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Bush Theatre), Wrecks (Everyman Palace Theatre, The Public Theatre, The Bush Theatre), In a Dark Dark House (MCC Theater, Almeida Theatre), The Break of Noon (MCC Theater, Geffen Playhouse), Reasons to be Pretty (MCC Theater, Almeida Theatre), In a Forest, Dark and Deep (Vaudeville Theatre, Profiles Theatre), The Heart of the Matter (MCC Theater), Woyzeck - adaptation (Schauspielhaus Zurich), Things We Said Today (Profiles Theatre, Sala Beckett), The Furies/The New Testament/Romance (59E59), The Great War (Ensemble Studio Theatre), Taming of the Shrew - additional scenes (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), Short Ends (Open Fist Theatre), The Money Shot (MCC Theater), Lovely Head (Spoleto Festival - Italy, Fringe Festival- Madrid, La Mama), In The Beginning (Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Theatre Row), Miss Julie - adaptation (Geffen Playhouse), Reasons to be Happy (MCC Theater), Over The River And Through the Woods (Planet Connections), Good Luck (In Farsi) (59E59), Pick One (Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Young Vic), One Day Like This (American Academy of Dramatic Arts), and The Way We Get By (Second Stage).

Planet Connections Theatre Festivity is New York's premiere socially-conscious theatre, music and film festival. The entire festival is aligned to help artist shine a light on the issues facing our society and support the organizations working to make a difference. The 2015 Theatre Festivity will run from June 15-July 12 at the Paradise Factory (located at 64 East 4th Street between the Bowery and 2nd Avenue), and will also play host to special events at various locations in New York City's East Village. The full lineup for the Festivity will be announced shortly. For more information on Planet Connections visit: planetconnections.org. Tickets for Playwrights for a Cause range from $35 to $100, and are available at planetconnections.org or by calling OvationTix at 866-811-4111.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride


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