By Abby Bien
I like controversy and conversation that arises from art. Growing up, my family and I spent hours in theatre seats, watching shows like “Rent,” “Spring Awakening,” and, most recently, “The Book of Mormon.” Last year I saw the latter Tony award-winning show, a religious satirical musical written by the creators of “South Park,” and walked away thoroughly entertained. Although I recognized the potentially offensive material, I couldn’t resist seeing the show for a second time a few months later.
Besides “The Book of Mormon,” shows like “Hair” and “Rent” have grazed newspapers with their success for years. With each of these shows consisting of foul language and sexual behavior, I began to wonder: Is modern art successful only if it’s controversial?
I became curious as to whether Butler accepted the fact that nowadays popular productions often contain inappropriate material. After speaking with Joshua Lingenfelter, director of marketing for Clowes Memorial Hall, I quickly learned that I was oblivious to Clowes’ history and it’s openness to provocative art.
“[Clowes] is very much a curator. We try not to censor,” said Lingenfelter. For years, Clowes has housed shows that are notoriously mature. It is continuing this trend by bringing productions like “Flashdance” and “Memphis” to the stage this school year.
Of those productions that raised questions was the R-rated puppet show, “Avenue Q.” Parents mistakenly assumed the show was for kids despite the information provided by Clowes when promoting the show.
Butler’s venues provide students and the surrounding Indianapolis area with the ability to formulate their own opinions about art.
“What parents think is risqué is not what students think is risqué,” Lingenfelter said. “It’s the audience’s, not the venue’s, job to determine whether it would enjoy or even want to attend a performance or not. Do your research, and know what you’re paying to watch.”
I also began to understand that these shows aren’t popular because they are controversial. They are popular because they are good works of art.
“‘Book of Mormon’ wouldn’t be successful if it wasn’t a good story,” Lingenfelter said.
The controversial productions are worthy of their critical acclaim, and that is why Clowes doesn’t flinch from housing them.