NOTE: The article excerpted on this page is from an outside publication and is posted on FIRE's website because it references FIRE's work. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily represent FIRE's positions.
A student playwright at Washington State University who wrote a controversial “intentionally offensive” play last year is preparing new productions.
Chris Lee’s “Passion of the Musical” inflamed its audience and sparked a debate about WSU’s role in a protest of the play. University officials purchased tickets for protesters, and the school has taken the position that protesters were expressing their free-speech rights.
Lee and the free-speech group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) say the university has trampled his constitutional rights by supporting the “heckler’s veto.” Lee said protesters at his show in April made threats of violence and intended to disrupt the show.
“I’m going to do more shows this semester, but I don’t feel secure,” said Lee. He said he’s planning to stage the “Mangina Monologues,” a takeoff on the “Vagina Monologues.
“It’s a pro-male show, saying it’s good to be a guy,” Lee said. “It’s not female-bashing.”
He’s also planning a pair of burlesque-style shows in December.
According to university records obtained by Lee and FIRE, a university official purchased tickets for about40 students to attend the play. At least one administrator was aware the students intended to stand during the performance – which included racial epithets and other offensive material – and state, “I’m offended.”
FIRE and Lee have demanded that WSU denounce the protesters and state its support for free speech.
WSU has said that because of the nature of Lee’s play and because he directly addressed audience members, the performance took on the qualities of a public debate.
Michael Tate, vice president for equity and diversity, said in a recent letter to Lee the university would not condone any unlawful obstruction of plays – but it also would not “seek to impede the lawful exercise of anyone else’s free-speech rights.”