Who says politicians are the ultimate thespians? Certainly not Michigan State Representative Jack Brandenburg: the politician has launched a war against Saginaw Valley State University over their production of Angels in America. The first battle came in radio form, when Brandenburg appeared on local WJR 760 AM and took on Tony Kushner’s Pultizer and Tony award winning AIDS tear jerker.
Upon hearing of the play’s production, the rambunctious Republican went to Pam Burns – the head honcho at the Subcommittee on Appropriations for Higher Education. Obviously an appreciator of fine culture – not to mention dire politics – Burns shooed Brandenburg away. Brandenburg may not love the theater, but he sure as hell loves a good fight.
Like a good conservative, Brandenburg’s going after the money. He told WJR’s Frank Beckmann that he’s like to:
Put their feet to the fire. Tell [SVSU] President Gilbertson if he doesn’t shut down this play, and I mean now! Shut it down! That his funding is going to be held by the state. And if he really doesn’t want to go along, demand his resignation. …This is not about education. This is not about art. This play is a degeneracy.
In response to the Brandenburg brou-ha-ha, SVSU media director JJ Boehm said,
Angels‘ wasn’t some second rate sleeze that was picked up somewhere. This is a play that has been shown at hundreds of universities across the country… The play will run.
No word on whether Brandenburg plans to retaliate.
The bully-hating Triangle Foundation also took a few shots of their own against Brandenburg, who they call a front for the American Family Association. Greg Varnum, director of Youth Initiatives, wagged an arts-loving, fast-snapping finger:
Artistic expression is supposed to make people think; part of the purpose of art is to engage adult minds about adult topics. It’s sad to realize that not only are the AFA and Rep. Brandenburg so threatened by this idea, but that they feel perfectly justified in using blackmail to attack artistic expression and deny others the opportunity to see this Emmy, Tony, and Pulitzer-prize winning play. Brandenburg should spend more time confronting the real problems facing Michigan’s families and far less time catering to followers of Gary Glenn and the American Family Association.
Um, Brandenburg, we think you just got told. Perhaps now you can concede defeat in this ugly, unnecessary, uncultured war.
(Note: image not a still from SVSU’s production.)