The following letter, by musical theater performer Susan Egan (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) has been making the rounds of various social networking sites and includes a long quote from Hairspray composer Marc Shaiman. Ms. Egan discovered that Scott Eckern, artistic director of California Music Theater in Sacramento, donated $1,000 to support Proposition 8, which passed last week and amends the California Constitution to bar same-sex marriage. Here’s the letter:
Dear Friends —
I thought you might be interested to know that Scott Eckern, Artistic Director of California Music Theatre (Sacramento Music Circus) contributed $1000 in support of California’s divisive Proposition 8, which eliminates (not just bans) the right for same-sex couples to marry and receive all of the emotional, economic, and social benefits that married couples often take for granted. Mr. Eckern’s affiliation with CMT, as well as his title and the amount donated to legislate the lives of others, is public information that can be found at
Marc Shaiman, composer (most notably of Hairspray, which was produced at CMT last year) has already contacted Sacramento’s CMT and expressed his disgust with the idea that a theatrical organization, employing and making money from gay artists and audience members, harbors an executive who uses a portion of his income to publicly support hate legislation (my term). I believe Mr. Shaiman may have told them they would no longer be allowed to produce his work, and has contacted the creators of Avenue Q (to be produced in March of ’09) to enlighten them.
I am deeply troubled by the news about Scott, as I have worked for and known him since 1993. I find his behavior hypocritical at best and, more likely, distressingly prejudiced. Many of you friends who, like myself, have worked for Scott might be floored to know this news. I think at this point I shall do my best to “out” him and any others like him. Folks who show (and make money) playing one game, but with an inner intolerance that denies everything our industry represents.
I have personally been in contact with Marc Shaiman to confirm all the information. In his words:
“Yes, it’s all true! Of course, there is nothing much I can do since they’ve already done HAIRSPRAY, but the AVE Q guys (at least one of them) may do something, perhaps picket his own show! But, as I hope people realize, it is not really up to a writer to cancel a production that has already been licensed.
What I could do I did, which was to call Mr. Eckern directly and say what I had to say. Reading this past week how people still actually think being gay is a choice (the only choice we make is not to lie about who we are) and that that one line from a beautiful book proves we are sinners (a book that also allows for the stoning of wives and of people who wear two different kinds of fabric at the same time), well, I am starting to feel that the only way to make people change is, I think, to now greet every person I meet and say “Hi, I’m Marc, God made me gay and I think that that He and I are both fabulous!” and leave the rest up to them.”
Sacramento Music Circus holds a cherished place in my heart, primarily because of Leland Ball and the inspirational talents he would gather for his productions. I feel the spirit of Leland is lost under Scott’s leadership. As a private citizen I choose not to support California Music Theatre while it operates under Mr. Eckern’s tenure.
I support Marc Shaiman in his boycott of CMT, and hope others will follow — as ticket-buyers, writers, musical directors, crew, designers and performers and more.
I feel compelled to write because I have heard from so many beloved friends the last few days. People who are in every way caring and generous citizens. Friends who are for the most part very quiet on the political front, who have had to awaken because of last Tuesday, due to their shock that their lifestyles are not “accepted” by so-called friends!! The irony of electing Obama and Prop 8 passing astounds me.
I am not ordinarily a political fighter, but I do believe in information for all, and let them decide. And more than anything I believe in “holding the space” for what is right.
In support of my gay and lesbian friends I find it a travesty that the entire arts community is not standing in solidarity for equal rights. Shame on Scott.
That our industry should be the first to raise money and awareness for AIDS to the result of awakening a country and world to the issue … well then, marriage (and every other sort of) equality is a no-brainer … and a duty and obligation.
I hope with this email to find others to “hold the space” with me …. full equality in marriage rights. If you should feel compelled to pass the information about Scott Eckern on to others …. by all means do.
Hoping for change …. still,
Following wide circulation of the above letter, Eckern issued the following apology:
“I understand that my choice of supporting Proposition 8 has been the cause of many hurt feelings maybe even betrayal. It was not my intent. I honestly had no idea that this would be the reaction. I chose to act upon my belief that the traditional definition of marriage should be preserved. I support each individual to have rights and access and I understood that in California domestic partnerships come with the same rights that come with marriage…I definitely do not support any message or treatment of others that is hateful or instills fear. This is a highly emotional issue. I have now had many conversations with friends and colleagues and I now have a better idea of what the discrimination issues are, how deeply felt these issues are and I am deeply saddened that my acting upon my religious convictions has been devastating to those I love and admire…I am deeply sorry for any harm or injury I have caused.”
Eckern has also reportedly made a contribution of $1,000 toward the fight for equal rights for all.
And a further update (as of 11/12/08): Scott Eckern has resigned his position with California Musical Theatre. Read the Sacramento Bee’s story: www.sacbee.com