May 19, 3:50 PM EDT

New York anti-censorship theater event to go on after 1st venue canceled over play's title


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NEW YORK (AP) -- A play festival benefiting the National Coalition Against Censorship will go on at a new location but without the Neil LaBute play that led to it being scrapped at its initial venue.

Playwrights for a Cause said Tuesday that its festival, featuring three new short plays about censorship in the arts, will take place on June 14 at New York Theatre Workshop.

The Sheen Center, a rental facility that opened last year with funding from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, pulled the plug on hosting the event last week after LaBute rejected a request to change his play's title, which refers to the Prophet Muhammad's groin.

Sheen Center executive director William Spencer Reilly defended the decision to cancel the festival, saying the venue "will not be a forum that mocks or satirizes another faith group."

The festival, backed by the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, will now go on with one-act plays by Erik Ehn, Halley Feiffer and Israel Horovitz, all of whom had been originally scheduled. There also will be a panel discussion on various facets of censorship.

Glory Kadigan, producing artistic curator of Playwrights for a Cause and founder of Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, said the event "was always supposed to be about building bridges, sharing points of view and trying to ease tensions rather than create them."

LaBute is the prolific and often provocative playwright and screenwriter whose works include "In the Company of Men" and "The Shape of Things." The one-man play he wrote for the festival is about an actor asked to perform in an offensive satire.

"I had hoped my work would be viewed on its own merits rather than overshadow our message or become a beacon of controversy," he said in a statement.

"I am honestly not interested in stirring hatred or merely being offensive; I wanted my play to provoke real thought and debate and I now feel like that opportunity has been lost and, therefore, it is best that I withdraw the play from Playwrights For A Cause."

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Online: http://planetconnections.org

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