Parkway Playhouse loses West Side Story due to HB2 boycott

The Parkway Playhouse in Burnsville recently announced that permission to stage the classic musical West Side Story have been pulled by the rights holders. That loss came as a reaction to the state’s controversial House Bill 2, aka “the bathroom bill.” The growing string of boycotts surrounding the bill, due to its restrictive language concerning transgender people, has finally hit Western North Carolina’s theater community.

Local theaters took notice when famed Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz pulled the rights to all of his shows from being produced in N.C. These productions include Wicked and Godspell. There is concern was over whether other creators will follow Schwartz and call for boycotts of their own shows.

“Parkway Playhouse has given voice to performing artists in our community and the region for seventy years,” says Andrew Gall, the theater company’s artistic director. “While we respect the views of Mr. Schwartz and the authors of West Side Story, none of them have any experience in working in small rural arts organizations, and it is difficult for me to see the value in a boycott that silences artists, which is the direct result of this development. It is similarly difficult for me to understand how this effort, by these writers in particular, will actively contribute to a resolution of the conflict surrounding this law.”

A show is being sought to replace West Side Story, and will be announced soon. Gall also indicated that this sudden shift in the Parkway Playhouse’s summer season presents a lot of challenges, and that the costs incurred due to those changes will be “extensive.”

“Our theater has endured many tests since 1947,” Gall says. “We will survive this too. Parkway Playhouse is not a political organization, and despite the position we have been put in, our focus will remain on serving our community by continuing to create the best theater possible.”

West Side Story, by Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents, is licensed through Music Theatre International. That organization posted the following on its webside: “The rights holders of this show have made their intentions clear and MTI will not issue new licenses for this show within North Carolina or Mississippi until we receive new instructions.”

Representative Michele Presnell and State Senator Ralph Hise, both representing Yancey County, supported HB2. Both are up for re-election in November.


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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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10 thoughts on “Parkway Playhouse loses West Side Story due to HB2 boycott

  1. halcy

    Oh, brother and bother! One would think that actions such as this and the numerous companies pulling out of North Carolina would give Governor McCrory a pause and consideration to re-think HB 2 – but nothing yet. . .

    • hauntedheadnc

      Nothing yet, and why would they want to act because of something like this? Everyone knows that the performing arts are for commie fairies anyway. Real ‘Murkans don’t want to watch a bunch of people in silly costumes and pancake makeup prancing around singing anyway. Hell, the Hee-Haw dvd boxed set was good enough for my mama and daddy, and it’s good enough for me, by gum!

  2. Jason

    Maybe in protest, Parkway should refuse to pay the “admission” tax enacted by the same legislature a few years ago.

  3. boatrocker

    Or maybe NC could get off its hypocritical moral high horse and realize The United States of America was not founded off BS principles from the King James Bible, which was heavily edited to suit a certain English King James.

    Therefore the Bible is not the literal word of God. The Constitution, however is considered by most sane people as a work of non fiction.

    Prepare to do without, NC. Scoff if you like, but today it’s staged theater productions being boycotted.

    Tomorrow it might be (gasp) bro country night karaoke at your favorite sports bar, or even (double gasp) sports events or
    (triple gasp) local microbreweries refusing to serve Trump voters- perfectly legal according to a recent Time magazine article about an Asheville motorist being refused service by a local tow truck operator for having bernie sticker on the bumper.

    Tell me, Leviticus/ Raynd/Libertarian shills, how is that just?

    • Buffalo Bob

      You sir, clearly know absolutely nothing about the Founding Father’s and the purpose of the Constitution. You might try coming out of mommie’s basement and reading before blathering on senselessly…of course, then you wouldn’t be an intolerant liberal.

  4. Gary J

    Here’s the good news regarding the “upcoming” election. In 2014, District 118: Incumbent Republican Michele Presnell beat Democrat Dean Hicks 13,762 votes to 13,036. So, it was actually close for a gerrymandered district. Here’s the bad news: District 47, for State Senator Ralph Hise is gerrymandered for Republican vs. Democrat so well, he already has a 13-point advantage just by showing up.

  5. David Bailey

    Maybe “Westside Story” is a different play than the famous “West Side Story” (the play written by Arthur Laurents, with music by Bernstein and Sondheim). If that’s the case, who cares anyway??

  6. Yep

    more ignorance from the out of state progressives who demand to control YOU …

  7. Bill

    Thank God for a governor and a legislature that is grounded in common sense. This boycott business will pass eventually. The problem with the Charlotte ordinance was NEVER with the confused people who don’t know if they are boys or girls. The concern is about those predators who will use the ordinance to facilitate their crimes or as cover when they are caught perpetrating them. I think people who don’t like North Carolina’s ways should move to California or some other place where their values will be appreciated.

  8. Sebastian Beckenbaum

    Hi, I know this is after the fact and I am probably not going to get noticed. Still there was a concern that I thought responding to may change the way you see your role in this could be one that helps positive change and not just shrugs off the issues going on in your area.

    the article states: “While we respect the views of Mr. Schwartz … it is difficult for me to see the value in a boycott that silences artists, which is the direct result of this development.”

    You are not silenced, if you respect the views of the works that you hold so strong, you should make a point to let the people of your community know that your theatre group agrees with the playwrights and is siding with them. You should be using that voice to show you are also displeased with the treatment and dehumanizing of others for simply being different. If you feel that is too bold of a voice, then do something in public domain and wait for others with some sense to stop behaving like mean bigoted children. I am proud that the people are boycotting these areas. Maybe, before all the people in your town are completely broke and cut off will you realize that treating people like crap, and as lower than you, for being themselves because you think they’re “icky” is NEVER ok. The theatre community should be a group that embraces those who are different, stands up for the underdog. Instead you are whining about being silenced because you can’t perform West Side Story? Really you need to get some serious perspective.

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