Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Haggard’s Accuser, and a Theater Troupe, Visit Megachurch


(Also published under varying headlines in The Colorado Springs Gazette, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, CNN.com, MSNBC.com, and others)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- The former male prostitute whose accusations against New Life Church founder Ted Haggard led to Haggard's dismissal as pastor has paid a visit to the megachurch.

Mike Jones, who has a forthcoming book, told The Denver Post that several people shook his hand during the visit Sunday and told him, ''God bless you.''

''I had read a lot about the church, but there's nothing like seeing it for yourself,'' Jones told the paper. ''It wasn't to rub anyone's face in it by any means. I was wanting to get some perspective, to see where they are coming from, what the magnet is.''

Haggard resigned last year as president of the National Association of Evangelicals after Jones alleged Haggard paid him over a three-year period for sex and sometimes took methamphetamine during the encounters.

Haggard then was fired as pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church. He publicly admitted in November to unspecified ''sexual immorality.''

In an apology to the church, Haggard had urged members to forgive and thank Jones for exposing deceit. Church members invited Jones to the church several times.

Jones visited on Sunday with members of a New York-based theater troupe, The Civilians, who are researching a project on evangelicals. Church leaders knew about the visit beforehand.

Associate pastor Rob Brendle saw Jones in the foyer.

''I told Mike, 'I don't want to impose my religious beliefs on you, but I believe God used you to correct us, and I appreciate that,''' Brendle said. ''The church's response to him was overwhelmingly warm. One of the wonderful and enduring truths of Christianity is to love people the world sets up to be your enemies.''

Haggard and his wife, Gayle, completed a counseling program in Arizona and are back in Colorado Springs, Brendle said.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

New Life members welcome Jones Former male prostitute: "I was thanked for exposing the church"

By Eric Gorski
Denver Post Staff Writer

As soon as the visitor from Denver walked through the church doors Sunday morning, heads turned. Word spread quickly: He was here.

Just about every person who offered him a handshake said the same thing: Welcome, thank you and God bless.

About 14,000 people pour into New Life Church in Colorado Springs each Sunday, so anonymity is not difficult to achieve.

One exception is when you are Mike Jones, the former male prostitute whose allegations of a three-year sexual liaison with church founder Ted Haggard triggered national scandal and led to Haggard's fall.

Jones attended services Sunday at New Life Church on a reconnaissance mission for his forthcoming book and said he was greeted warmly. Haggard, in an apology to the church, had urged members to forgive and thank Jones for exposing deceit.

"I had read a lot about the church, but there's nothing like seeing it for yourself," Jones said. "It wasn't to rub anyone's face in it by any means. I was wanting to get some perspective, to see where they are coming from, what the magnet is."

Jones had been invited to New Life several times by church members since Haggard resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and was fired from the church after admitting in November to "sexual immorality."

Jones was accompanied Sunday by members of a New York- based theater troupe, the Civilians, who are in Colorado Springs researching a project on evangelicals. Church leaders were told in advance of the visit.

"A couple of ladies cried when they were touching me," Jones said. "I was thanked for exposing the church, for helping Ted Haggard. A couple of them said they hoped I get God into my life. And they all said 'God bless you,' every one of them."

But Jones - who came forward out of anger toward Haggard's political stances against homosexuality - said he wasn't impressed on the whole. If the Gospel message is enough, he said, why the loud music and MTV-quality production?

"There seems to be something missing, some realism, in my opinion, because it's so vast, like some kind of self-contained city," said Jones, who said he was raised Methodist but is estranged from organized religion.

When associate pastor Rob Brendle encountered Jones in the foyer, he commented, "The last time I saw you was on the other side of a split screen" during TV interviews.

Brendle characterized Jones' presence as a reminder of both grief and God's faithfulness.

"I told Mike, 'I don't want to impose my religious beliefs on you, but I believe God used you to correct us, and I appreciate that,"' Brendle said. "The church's response to him was overwhelmingly warm. One of the wonderful and enduring truths of Christianity is to love people the world sets up to be your enemies."

Haggard and his wife, Gayle, have completed a counseling program at an Arizona treatment center and are back in Colorado Springs awaiting direction from a panel overseeing what has been termed Haggard's "restoration," Brendle said.

Staff writer Eric Gorski can be reached at 303-954-1698 or egorski@denverpost.com.

[Photo Caption: Mike Jones addressed the Rev. Ted Haggard on the air Monday, saying, "If you're a gay man, you're a gay man." Jones also said he wanted to clarify he is not a drug dealer and that he was merely a go-between when Haggard reportedly expressed a desire to buy methamphetamine. (Post / Cyrus McCrimmon )]


Monday, January 1, 2007

Brave New Year

Some of Off-Broadway's leading lights offer up resolutions for 2007

by Alexis Soloski

Owing to Mayor Bloomberg's 2003 public ordinance, Off-Broadway theaters have quit smoking. And as stages are converted into bars, clubs, and condos, they've lost plenty of weight. Off-Broadway constantly makes new friends, learns foreign languages, and takes up new hobbies. So on December 31, when the champagne corks pop and "Auld Lang Syne" strikes up, what's left to resolve? We asked playwrights, performers, producers, and directors what resolutions they plan to make for Off-Broadway and themselves as they ring in 2007.

Anne Marie Healy
, Playwright (Now That's What I Call a Storm)
Resolutions for Off-Broadway: I'd love to see more connections between the New York theater scene and other hotbeds of new work. I keep hearing and seeing all this great work coming out of different regional hubs, but it doesn't seem to be totally connected with what's happening in New York.
Resolutions for Self: I'm studying with Paula Vogel at the moment, and she's introducing me to tons of thrilling new theatrical possibilities. I'm thinking a lot about the muddy brilliance of [Tadeusz] Kantor at the moment. It's very inspiring, so I am resolved to keep my mind open to irrational choices.

Matt Maher, Performer (100 Aspects of the Moon with Clubbed Thumb)
Resolutions for Off-Broadway: I want the theater to stop competing with TV and film and just be itself. The more the Internet asserts itself,as more and more people are making their own movies and pilots and websites and interactive sitcoms and the like, the more crucial it is for theater to assert its strengths: richly collaborative, never-to-be-repeated, meticulously planned events that are meant to be shared with people right there in the room with you.

Anne Kauffman, Director (The Thugs)
Resolutions for Off-Broadway: I wholeheartedly beg writers to write from a politically conservative point of view. Enough preaching to the converted! Make me love Karl Rove (I already shamefully admire him). Make me understand Bush. Creating work from this angle might actually provoke interesting political discourse.

Rob Handel, Playwright (Aphrodisiac)
Resolutions for Self: In 2007, I resolve to write plays that meet the challenge laid down by the plays I saw in 2006, plays by writers who demand a theater of ideas and language and image—who write characters unafraid to say "Yoi ma i fa ha. d'lal ad na amginck tai" (The Internationalist); who write stage directions unafraid to say "The FIVE SAMS emerge from Samantha" (Dead City); and who demand directors and theaters with the imagination to interpret and execute their scripts.

Young Jean Lee, Playwright/Director (Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven)
Resolutions for Self: My resolution is to stop whining so much and be more grateful for what I have. Over the next year, I have to write and direct two new shows, write a show for Big Dance Theater, tour to at least six different venues, form a nonprofit, and teach a bunch of workshops, all while holding down a part-time job. I've been really stressing out over it, but I'm realizing how obnoxious it is to whine about an overabundance of opportunities.

Juliana Francis-Kelly
, Playwright/Performer (Saint Latrice)
Resolutions for Off-Broadway: More plays with children and animals in them, played by real children and real animals.

Adam Bock, Playwright (The Thugs)
Resolutions for Self: I'm gonna do more yoga and get a dog.

Sheila Callaghan, Playwright (Dead City)
Resolutions for Off-Broadway: I'd like to see the term "emerging playwright" blasted with liquid nitrogen, replaced by terms more appropriate to each individual artist given his or her own prior artistic accomplishments.
Resolutions for Self: To stop pretending the hours I spend submerged in my daily YouTube coma is "character research."

Adam Rapp, Playwright (Red Light Winter)
Resolutions for Off-Broadway: I would like to see more established theaters take the lead from the Public and Playwrights Horizons, who are both hosting emerging companies. And maybe Stomp will finally leave the Orpheum Theatre? As much as I enjoyed it, it's like 12 years later, and it's about time for a proper play to be running there again.

Steve Cosson, Director/Playwright ([I Am] Nobody's Lunch)
Resolutions for Self: With the Civilians, I'm working on a big project about evangelical Christianity and the line between church and state, and for the Foundry Theatre, I'm writing an interview-based show about environmental and climate changes. So my resolution is to take a bit of a break and create a show about puppies —I'm thinking maybe puppies on a road trip, puppies getting into trouble, maybe a run-in with a mean cow or a feisty goat.

Sarah Benson, Producer/Artistic Director (Soho Rep)
Resolutions for Off-Broadway: Quit being so parochial. Banish the formulaic 90-minute play—and all plays with people being nasty to each other in the name of being theatrically radical (or as a substitute for genuinely dangerous theater). Lisa D'Amour, Playwright (Stanley [2006])
Resolutions for Off-Broadway: Continue to chip away at the stigma of downtown "cool" in order to find more audience and make theater that is clear, honest, humble and compassionate. Lure more artists of color into the downtown scene, as well as more artists who grew up outside the northeastern U.S.

Kristin Marting, Producer/Director (Here Arts Center)
Resolutions for Off-Broadway: More rigor. More challenge. More surprise. I want more work which doesn't do what you expect, which makes you uncomfortable, which transports you, which moves you.
Resolutions for Self: I hope to spend more time as an artist and less as a real estate maven.

Ken Rus Schmoll, Director (The Internationalist)
Resolutions for Off-Broadway: More festivals like the recent BAIT (Buenos Aires in Translation) at P.S.122—offerings of plays from unexpected countries.
Resolutions for Self: To direct a play by a dead person.

David Herskovits, Director (Faust)
Resolutions for Off-Broadway: The resolution I would like to see us make in theaters everywhere is not to operate from a position of fear—fear of artistic failure, of the unknown, of losing audience or funders, of poor press. Fear of employing an untried talent, of being the first to embrace something new (especially when others may have questioned it), of deploying production practices, schedules, staffing and organizational models outside our zone of comfort.

Fear of letting go of what we know—the comfortable narcotic familiar. All this kills the flourishing creative imagination. We know that and pay lip service to it reli giously, but how often do we really, really let go of our established machinery? And how often do we find ourselves saying no—even in the politest possible way—to impulses only because, really, that's just not how we do things? Say yes!