Tolerance and the name Fred Phelps are rarely used in the same sentence. The founder of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas -- a tiny congregation whose members are mostly related to Phelps by blood or marriage -- will turn 80 in November, and he has spent the bulk of his golden years (and the years leading up to them) spewing what he believes to be Biblically-justified hate. He and his followers picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the young gay man whose murder was detailed in Moises Kaufman's The Laramie Project. Gay men are apparently No. 1 on Phelps' enemies list.
So it is hardly surprising (except perhaps for the relatively small size and short history of the company) that Oakland Park's Rising Action Theatre has become one of Phelps' targets with its current production of Paul Rudnick's The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told. The play offers a gay take on Old Testament stories, beginning with the creation of two first couples -- Adam and Steve, Jane and Mabel. Of course, those most likely to be offended by Rudnick's revisionism wouldn't dream of going to see it. Phelps and his followers, however, see yet another opportunity to spread the anti-gay word.
The reverend and his followers plan to picket the Jan. 16 Most Fabulous Story performance beginning at 7:15 p.m. The theater is at 840 E. Oakland Park Blvd., and artistic director David Goldyn says commisioner Larry Gierer and several ministers plan to be there in support of artistic and religious tolerance. Check the theater's web site for more information on what is sure to be a contentious, ugly curtain-raiser.