NEW YORK — The theater community is banding together for a special podcast to combat censorship that features performances from plays and musicals under threat and appearances by Bryan Cranston, Raúl Esparza, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Richard Kind.
The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund’s “Banned Together: An Anti-Censorship Podcast” has readings, scenes and snippets from works including Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,” Jonathan Larson’s “Rent” and Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.” It is available to download now through Sept. 24 in conjunction with Banned Books Week.
“Boldly putting this art out there is really important,” said Tony-winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Lisa Kron, who is twice represented on the podcast. Her song with Jeanine Tesori “Changing My Major” from “Fun Home” is heard, and Kron also performs a scene from “The Vagina Monologues.”
Other plays featured include Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ “An Octoroon,” Paula Vogel’s “Indecent,” Alice Childress’ “Trouble in Mind,” Moisés Kaufman’s “The Laramie Project,” Nilo Cruz’s “Anna in the Tropics” and “My Name is Rachel Corrie” by Rachel Corrie.
Highlights include Cranston playing lawyer Roy Cohn and Kind playing his doctor in a scene from “Angels in America,” Keenan-Bolger doing a monologue from “My Name is Rachel Corrie” and Esparza reading a devastating section from “The Laramie Project.” The Stonewall Chorale performs “Seasons of Love” from “Rent.”
The podcast makes clear that producers and schools sometimes face local pressure to avoid or scrap plans for plays and musicals that explore race and sexuality.
“Every time there have been steps forward in terms of widening civil rights, enfranchisement, the American promise that involves a multiracial, multi-gendered, full enfranchisement and much fuller democracy — every single time that’s happened, there has been a violent backlash. And that’s happening right now,” Kron said.
Kron also fears that theater creators will start to pull their punches in anticipation of what could happen. “One of the insidious ways this kind of censorship moves is in self-censorship,” she said.
The podcast is hosted by Dramatists Legal Defense Fund board members Lydia Diamond and Cheryl Davis. Greg Jarrett serves as music director.