Aired on KSDS-FM on 11/23/18
RUN DATES: 11/8/18 – 12/16/18
VENUE: Diversionary Theatre
It was a city on a hill. Pastor Ted Haggard was determined to make Colorado Springs into the evangelical capital of the world.
In 1984, he started his New Life Church, which ultimately grew to 14,000 members. Other Christian organizations, including the fundamentalist Focus on the Family, set up shop there, too.
Everything was proceeding as planned; then crisis struck. Haggard was outed by a male prostitute as a regular purchaser of men and methamphetamines. And the pastor of Emmanuel, the primary black church in the area, voluntarily came out; his congregation promptly ousted him.
While he felt free, Haggard was trapped – by his own hypocrisy – forced out of his position as pastor, and President of the National Association of Evangelicals.
In 2006, in the wake of these spiritual tsunamis, the New York-based community activist group, the Civilians, that specializes in investigative theater, traveled to Colorado Springs and interviewed numerous townspeople – from evangelicals to atheists, including a Trans woman and a Celtic Wiccan.
Civilians artistic director Steve Cosson, along with Jim Lewis, wove the quotes into a dramatic tapestry. Together with esteemed composer/lyricist Michael Friedman, who died prematurely last year, they created a musical.
“This Beautiful City” is having its San Diego premiere at Diversionary Theatre, and the production is dedicated to the memory of Michael Friedman.
The cast and creative team are excellent, marshaled by inventive director Matt M. Morrow and music director Tony Houck. The voices superbly capture the pastiche score of pop, country and Christian rock. Intense monologues and stunning harmonies are set against a backdrop of community dissonance.
Though the piece tries to be even-handed, many of the comments were more disturbing than enlightening, particularly the unequivocal support of the local Air Force academy and base for overt Christian evangelizing.
A few characters espouse alternate perspectives, but they, like all dissenters, feel deeply isolated in a community that firmly believes in the Book of Revelations and the End Times that will damn all non-believers to eternal Hell.
Haggard has now returned to Colorado Springs, where faith continues to clash with civil liberties. The play may be intended to foster mutual understanding, but I found the lack of community acceptance of alternate views distressing and demoralizing.
©2018 PAT LAUNER