Four-time Tony Award winner Terrence McNally’s “Corpus Christi” is a retelling of the Jesus Passion story, with Jesus portrayed as a gay man living in 1950s Corpus Christi, Texas. The show originally opened at the Manhattan Theatre Club in NYC in 1998 to intense protest, rife with vocal picketers and bomb threats. Deemed by religious zealots as “blasphemous,” the shock and controversy the play created before it opened easily overshadowed McNally’s original intention in creating the piece—that inclusive love for all people was not only right, but possible. Dismissed on its surface as “that gay Jesus play,” it is at its core a story of coming to terms with who you are, and loving yourself. And through that self-love, we can be open to truly loving each other.
By delivering a message of acceptance through a framework of religion, it brings the conversation to an audience that’s been historically resistant to an open discussion of LGBT equality in a “language” they can understand—Jesus’ own words.
In 2006, 108 Productions revived the play, directed by Nic Arnzen and starring a cast of mixed gender, race, age and orientation, instead of the typical 13 young men who are cast as Jesus and the disciples. This only further reinforces the play’s message of embracing diversity and equality. What was intended to be an eight-night limited run at Los Angeles’ Zephyr Theatre has transformed into an eight-year journey that has affected the lives of not only the audience, but the cast. The play touches anyone—regardless of their religion, race, age, orientation or gender—who has ever been bullied, hated or felt alone because they were different or misunderstood. It shows us that in the end, Love will triumph.
Starting humbly in 2006 for an intended 8-night run, 108 Productions’ resounding success of “Corpus Christi” continued to sell out audiences for months at Los Angeles’ famous Zephyr Theatre, going on to tour across America. In Europe, the play was a standout success at the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was awarded the Intercultural Dialogue Award at the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival in 2008. Following, the company celebrated the show’s 10th anniversary Off-Broadway at the Rattlestick Theatre, benefiting the Matthew Shepard Foundation and New York’s Gay Community Center. They were then invited to the MCC International Conference in Acapulco to perform. The show continues to tour nationally and internationally.
Where We’ve Performed
- Los Angeles
- North Hollywood
- Orange County
- San Bernardino
- San Francisco
- Santa Ana
- Palm Springs
- West Hollywood
- Chicago, IL
- Dallas, TX
- Dubuque, IA
- Madison, WI
- New York, NY
- Acapulco, Mexico
- Dublin, Ireland
- Edinburgh, Scotland
What the Press is Saying
Los Angeles Times"Recommended! In director Nic Arnzen's heartfelt take, a multiracial, gender-bent ensemble led by the affecting James Brandon lands its core message ..."
-Los Angeles Times
New York Times"Without the noise of controversy, the play can finally be heard. Staged with admirable delicacy..this 108 productions revival...has moments of hard-won sentiment that will win over the biggest skeptic."
-New York Times
Three Weeks, Edinburgh“4 stars! The company loves this story, they tell us so straight away - and by the end, you will love it too..this show will make a believer out of you!”
-Three Weeks, Edinburgh
Scotsgay Magazine, Edinburgh“5 stars! The pure talent and genuine faith demonstrated by these actors was enough to warm the cockles of even the hardest heathen heart, and in this show I found the answer to questions I had always asked about how one could reconcile being gay and Christian.”
-Scotsgay Magazine, Edinburgh
LA Weekly, Los Angeles"GO! The entire cast gives great performances...creating an ending that is almost cinematic in its scope."
-LA Weekly, Los Angeles
The Advocate"The performances are remarkable... it is undeniably moving."
I am writing to pledge my full support of 108 Productions’ performance of my play “Corpus Christi.” When the show had its world premiere sixteen years ago at the Manhattan Theatre Club the production was nearly canceled as a result of violent protests and unwarranted rumors about the play. “Corpus Christi” eventually did open but the content of the play was overshadowed by intense controversy. Theatergoers had to walk through shouting throngs and metal detectors in order to get inside the theatre. The message of the play was lost in the shadow of death threats, hostility and vitriol. Now the play is being seen without rancor and audiences are able to appreciate the essence of the piece. I first heard of this company when they opened the show in early 2006. Several friends who saw the work immediately contacted me. All of these people offered their praise for the extraordinary talents of the company as well the passionate conviction with which the piece was being performed.
Without exception I was told, “This is the way the play was meant to be seen.”
Since then I have contacted and followed this company through their journey with the play. From Los Angeles, to small tours in various California cities, to Edinburgh, Scotland, to the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, and finally to Off-Broadway, I have watched in awe as their deep belief in the play and its message has carried them around the world, even when money seemed an impossibility. Now, as they continue with plans to create a national tour and document the piece in film for theatrical release, I have offered my full support in helping them in whatever way possible to make this happen. Their grassroots fundraising and organization over the past year has taken diligent commitment and passionate hard work. Ten years ago the bigots and the censors almost won the day. They certainly succeeded in preventing anyone from experiencing the play in a pure form. This company has, and will continue working hard to ensure that the piece is seen by as many people as possible in this politically-charged world, where tolerance and acceptance for all individuals still lies in question. Your support will ensure the success of their endeavors. Perhaps more importantly, your support will ensure the triumph of artistry over bigotry. It is my sincere hope that the simple message of inclusive love for all people in a world of division can finally be seen in the way that I had originally intended to reach audiences all those years ago. Sincerely– Terrence McNally Playwright