Outraged over the proposed budget cut for the College of
Charleston, which was triggered by a freshman reading assignment,
the cast of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated show volunteered to put on
two performances of selected songs from the musical at the college
Little more than a day after the box office for both Monday
performances opened, 900 of the 1,500 available tickets had been
sold for $10 or $15 apiece, a spokeswoman for the liberal arts
college with 11,000 undergraduate students said on Friday.
"The legislature's punishment of the college for teaching 'Fun Home'
just feels ridiculous," said Alison Bechdel, whose 2006 memoir
recalls growing up a lesbian with a closeted gay father in rural
Pennsylvania. She will be on hand for the performances on Monday.
In March, the Republican-controlled state House voted to slash the
school's budget appropriation by $52,000, the amount the college
spent on its summer reading program. The program included Bechdel's
book, a bestseller that was nominated for a National Book Critics
Circle Award, for incoming freshmen.
Republican Representative Garry Smith told Reuters he proposed the
cut after a parent complained about the book's "graphic pictures of
two females having sex" and because the college did not offer
another choice for summer reading.
The school, whose founders in 1770 included three signers of the
Declaration of Independence and three framers of the U.S.
Constitution, has said participating in the summer reading program
The Republican-led Senate is now considering the cut, which critics
have called an assault on academic freedom.
"I don't have a problem with their academic freedom but they're
asking someone else to pay for it," said Smith, who accused the
college of promoting a social agenda. "We want to send a message to
the colleges and universities that their academic freedom comes with
The College of Charleston has been buzzing with talk about gay
rights ever since a faculty member, in response to the proposed
spending cut, reached out to the creators of the recent Off Broadway
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The nine-member cast, which includes the Tony Award winner Michael
Cerveris, offered to perform for free as educational outreach, "Fun
Home" producer Barbara Whitman said.
The college has raised about $20,000 that will be used in addition
to the ticket sale proceeds to cover food, lodging and travel
expenses for the cast, said Todd McNerney, chairman of the college's
department of theater and dance.
Also helping to fund the effort is a community foundation grant from
the family of Harlan Greene, head of Special Collections at the
college's library, who said the shows "will spark debate on an issue
that has been bringing, frankly, all kinds of negative and
Greene said the state's political stance on gay rights is similar to
its resistance to racial integration in the 1950s and 1960s.
"A lot of southern demagogues at that time said we're not going to
knuckle down, we're not going to obey the law of the land," he said.
"It's the same exact thing that's happening with gay rights in the
In 2006, South Carolina voters approved an amendment to the state
constitution that bans same-sex marriage.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Tom Brown)
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