“Good afternoon Beacon Hill Barons, thank you for tuning in this week for another hour of ‘On the Air with Mark Henry’. We are coming to you live on WMOS-FM 89.7. Today’s first guest is Ronald Jay from the Beacon Hill University Theatre Department. Jay recently attempted to stage a production of the play he wrote titled Bob and Joe, which featured a legal marriage between two men. Bowing to criticism from a handful of very vocal students, the Administration ordered the Theatre Department to cease production on Bob and Joe citing—and I quote—'an attempt by Mr. Jay to push his own personal agenda'. End quote. Our discussion today is centered on an age-old topic that has caused great debate and controversy for decades: censorship. Later in the show we will also hear from Dana Jordan, who spearheaded the campaign against Bob and Joe. Ronald, thank you for speaking with me today. Tell us a bit about your play.”
“Let me first start by thanking you for contacting me to speak on this situation. I’m a big fan of the show."
"Thank you. Please continue."
"Bob and Joe is the story of the handsome and confident Bob’s efforts to forge a relationship with Joe, who can’t understand Bob's interest in him and doesn’t feel worthy. At the end of the show, the two marry.”
“Considering the current political climate regarding gay marriage, did you anticipate any backlash?”
“I really didn’t. I made no judgments for or against it. The marriage was intended to be presented as a simple foregone conclusion that the world had moved on from the topic. I wrote a typical wedding scene that just had two men instead of a man and a woman.”
“Why do you think Students for Moral Clarity, backed by Focus on the Family, has reacted as they have?”
“I'm not sure. They never spoke to me about it. From what I have heard and read, one of the actors who auditioned for the show is a member of that organization and opted out of the audition once they read that scene. It was the audition piece. I wanted to make sure the two actors involved would be comfortable with both the material and the kiss.”
“What is your purpose for a) writing the play and b) having the two marry? Why include the kiss?”
“It’s a love story. A lot of your love stories end in a wedding and most weddings end in a kiss. My purpose was to present more than a typical love story. It has been done ad nauseum from every viewpoint imaginable with a man and a woman. I just wanted to tell a story from a different point of view.”
“Why include a wedding? Why not just have them get together and that be the end of it?”
“Thinking as an audience member watching this, I needed the closure of a wedding.”
“Nothing less, nothing more?”
“Nothing less, nothing more.”
“Where do you stand on gay marriage?”
“It doesn’t matter where I stand. Including the wedding and making no mention of the obvious fact that there are two men involved, the audience member doesn’t have to grapple with the issue or make a decision. As the playwright, I don’t have to present or choose sides. Within the context of the play, I made the issue a non-issue. If I have done my job correctly, the crowd will be more concerned about the characters of Bob and Joe than the fact they are gay and getting married. The wedding comes in the last ten minutes of a seventy-minute play.”
“I want the audience to know that I am not ambushing my guest with this next question. We discussed this prior to broadcast. Ronald, are you gay or straight?
“I am straight.”
“Of course. Most of the gays here wouldn’t have the balls so do this play on their own. Are you looking to cast gay characters in these roles?
“I don’t care who play the parts. As long as they can pull it off.”
“How far along in the process were you before the Third Reich got involved?”
“Students for Moral Clarity hounded the Administration for three weeks before I was included in the discussions. By that time, their decision had already been made without any say from me.”
“Did anyone from the Administration read the play?”
“I'm not sure. I can’t imagine they did if their response was based on what they said was my own personal agenda.”
“Sounds to me like a classic case of ‘let’s do whatever they want to shut them up and get them out of our hair without any regard for what is proper.’ What was your response to the Administration once they shut you down?”
“I asked them to read the play. They told me that if I wanted to appeal, then I had to go through the proper channels and fill out a form. Of course, the person that would make the final decision is away on business and can’t be reached but will be returning next week at which point they will be very busy and blah and blah and blah.”
“That’s what they say when they just want something to go away. What communication has gone on between you and Students for Moral Clarity?”
“None. They never called me and I never called them. All of this has just been handled very badly by both parties involved.”
“Well, we also want to speak to the other party. Dana Jordan will be in the hot seat when we return from this short break. You are listening to ‘On the Air with Mark Henry’ on WMOS-FM 89.7.” Mark takes his headphones and starts to walk out of the booth. “That was a great segment, Ronald."
Mark walks around the studio looking for Dana. WMOS is a state-of-the-art production and broadcast facility that was made possible by a grant from actor-producer Edmund Moore and writer-director Shawn Elias, two alumni who came through the school’s Radio/TV/Film program twenty years prior and found their way to Hollywood, where Moore had a supporting role in the hit series Twins of Anarchy, on which Elias was a writer.
In college, they wrote and produced a radio comedy and a television talk show. They came to the attention of another alumnus, who encouraged them to make them move and helped them make their way up the ranks. After earning a bundle from Twins of Anarchy, they donated a significant amount of money to the University with which to upgrade the burgeoning TV production program. Mark hopes to follow a similar path. He runs into Dana as he returns to the booth.
“Dana? You're on after this break," Mark says. She follows him in very pointedly, eyes Ronald and sits down.
“I certainly hope you will be as easy on me as you were on Ronald,” Dana states accusingly as Mark takes his seat.
The station’s student manager, Karl Miller, comes into the studio looking worried. “Mark, Frank just called. You need to watch the flippant comments,” he says.
Mark looks surprised. “What's he talking about?”
“You and I can discuss that after the show. Just be a little more mindful of what you say, please.” With that, Karl leaves. Mark checks the clock, heads back to his seat, puts on the headphones and waits for the last PSA to finish. He takes a few moments to think about what he might have said in the previous segment that would cause Frank to call Karl. A quick station promo snaps him back to attention.
“Welcome back to ‘On the Air with Mark Henry’ on WMOS-FM 89.7. Thank you for sticking with us. Joining us this segment is Dana Jordan, President of Students for Moral Clarity, who successfully campaigned to the Administration to have production halted on Ronald Jay’s original play Bob and Joe because of a scene depicting a marriage between two men. Thank you for joining us today, Dana. Welcome to the show.” Mark is about to ask his first question, but Dana starts right in. At each pause, Mark tries to get a word in, but Dana will not be interrupted until she is finished speaking.
“Thank you, Mark. Let me begin by saying that I did read Bob and Joe and found it very well-written, well-paced, humorous and heartwarming. However, I had to take an exception to the gratuitous closing scene promoting gay marriage and even having the two men kiss. As an audience member, all we need to know is that the two of them did make their relationship work. That’s fine. To each his or her own. However, why not stop there? There are people in your audience who find the prospect of gay marriage completely reprehensible. It goes against everything that is right and American. Ending Bob and Joe in this manner aggregates the increasingly ambiguous morals that serve as an affront to the standards this great country was founded upon. We, the Students for Moral Clarity, can not allow such a display of moral decay to permeate the campus of Beacon Hill University. Local backlash to Bob and Joe not only affects the cast and crew of the show but also the Theatre Department, the Administration, the University community, this fair City and all of its inhabitants, putting a lot of hard-working, upstanding Americans in a negative light. We, the Students for Moral Clarity must take a stand to prevent that from happening.”
Mark and Ronald stare at her for a few minutes as if they are not sure whether to slug her or burst into a chorus of “America the Beautiful”. After a seemingly interminable pause, Mark clears his throat and continues.
“Ok, that about says it all right there, doesn’t it?” Mark says with a sheepish laugh, still unsure where to go from there. Dana sits high with her back straight, pleased with her words. Mark looks down at his production notes and asks her his first question.
“Dana, would you mind telling us the purpose of Students for Moral Clarity?”
“The Students for Moral Clarity is an organization made up of people raised with the proper morals who wish to maintain them at all costs.”
“And what do you guys do besides bulldoze individual rights?”
“First of all, we do not bulldoze anything Mr. Henry. We, the Students for Moral Clarity operate by the standards outlined in the Constitution, the Ten Commandments, state Laws and local Laws. When we see affronts to those morals such as the closing scene of Bob and Joe, we draw attention to it and call it out for what it is.”
“Are you a religious organization?”
“No we are not. We simply use the Ten Commandments for its historical significance.”
“Let me get this straight. You take the Laws of God and apply them for your purposes because they are historically significant?”
“Right indeed. Very Right. Extreme Right. Far Right. What if someone in the organization, a non-religious one at that, doesn’t believe in God?”
“Every Student for Moral Clarity believes in God.”
“Interesting. Is your membership open?”
“And everyone involved just happens to believe in God?”
“I don’t believe in God. What if I want to join Students for Moral Clarity?”
“How do you know?”
“No one that doesn’t believe in God wants to join our organization.”
“How do you know?”
“Because everyone that joined and didn’t believe didn’t stay very long.”
“Interesting. What happened to them, Jim?”
“Excuse me? Nothing. They came on their own, they left on their own.”
“With your glowing personality, I can’t imagine why.”
“I didn’t come here to be insulted, Mr. Henry.”
“You’re right. I apologize. I’ll go back to my original line of questioning, but I would suggest you not make it so easy. Given your stance on this particular issue, why didn’t you attempt to contact Ronald prior to going to the Administration?”
“We, the Students for Moral Clarity, needed to act quickly. Going to Mr. Jay would have delayed our process.”
“Did the Administration suggest that you speak to Ronald first?”
“Yes. We refused on grounds that were most likely going to be greeted by Mr. Jay with scorn, ridicule and a complete lack of cooperation.”
“Can you blame him? I know I would have laughed in your face. Not to beat a dead horse, but how would you respond to an allegation that you are trumping on Ronald’s right to freedom of expression?”
“Nothing. I exercised my right. He should have exercised his.”
“I would have if given the opportunity before being unceremoniously shut down by the Administration,” Ronald interjects. Dana gives him an angry look and then directs her ire back to Mark.
“Aren’t there issues of greater importance for the Students for Moral Clarity?” Mark asks.
“Aren’t you supposed to be fair and balanced?” Dana charges back.
“Fair and balanced can’t always apply to twisted self-promoting. I’m sorry. That just slipped out. Instead of shutting down Mr. Jay’s production, why don’t the Students for Moral Clarity simply mount their own production?”
“We intend to. It is about a young man who realizes that it is his life’s calling to find a good woman, marry her and multiply.”
“Who is playing the woman?” Ron asks.
“Probably me. I am also an actress,” Dana says proudly.
“Good luck finding a co-star.”
“No. Thank you. We have to take another break. Please come back for more cruel and unusual punishment. You are listening to ‘On the Air with Mark Henry’ on WMOS-FM 89.7.” Mark takes his headphones off. “This is going very well,” he says to Dana and Ronald.
Karl returns a second time with a stern look on his face. “Mark, Frank called me again. He is not happy. A representative from the Administration called him about one of your first segment comments comparing them to the Third Reich. Also, the Faculty Advisor from the Students for Moral Clarity is upset over how you are favoring Ronald over Dana. On the other hand, 64 emails came in from students all over campus praising the comedy.”
“I remember that Third Reich comment. I thought it was funny.”
“Tread lightly, Mark. Very lightly,” Al advises as Mark looks at the clock, puts his headphones back on and listens to the conclusion of another station promo.
“You are listening to ‘On the Air with Mark Henry’ on WMOS-FM 89.7. I’ve been speaking with Ronald Jay, whose original play Bob and Joe was shut down after the Administration bowed to pressure from the Students for Moral Clarity. Their president, Dana Jordan, is also with us. To kick off this last segment, I would like to read to you a copy of the official letter sent from the Administration to the Theatre Department regarding their spineless decision to cow-tow to the pressure from Students for Moral Jocularity. It reads as follows: To Philip Granger, Director of the Theatre Department, College of Fine and Performing Arts, Beacon Hill University...
Why can’t they just say Dear Phil?
It has come to the attention of the Beacon Hill University Administration that one of your senior students, Ronald Jay, is mounting a production of his original piece, "Bob and Joe", which features a closing scene where two men marry and kiss. Due to significant protest from the University community, we are ordering an immediate cessation of production on this project and suggest you find a more suitable venue for your effort. Beacon Hill University cannot be a part of one’s individual effort to push their own agenda. We wish you the best of luck in your future ventures and thank you in advance for your cooperation.
Pardon me whilst I hurl. I’m not supposed to laugh at such an official document from the upper echelons of the University community, but I could grow prizewinning roses with this. At this time, I would like to offer each of my guests some final comments before we close out this first half-hour. Dana, ladies first.”
“I’ve said all I needed to say.”
“I don’t mind the backlash. I just think the Students for Moral Clarity and the Administration could have been a little more forthright with me about what was going on before making decisions without my involvement. I am sure we could have worked something out that was beneficial to me, the Administration and the Students for Moral Clarity.” As he is finishing, Mark locates a patriotic track on the computer and begins to play it.
Dana is not amused. “Don’t you think that is a little much?” she asks.
“You didn’t want to say anything. If you had, you would have gotten an underscore as well. But in the interest of fairness and balance, I would like to offer you another opportunity to spew forth.”
“Students for Moral Clarity meets every Monday at 6pm in Robinson Hall Room 222.”
“That’s it? I didn’t get a chance to play 'How Great Thou Art’. In closing, I would like to ask the listening audience to join me into pushing the Administration to grow a set, read Jay’s Bob and Joe, hear Jay’s side of the story and make a better decision. I would like to thank Dana Jordan and Ronald Jay for joining me today. My co-host K-Dag will be with us with some musings when we return from this extended break. You are listening to ‘On the Air with Mark Henry’ on WMOS-FM 89.7.” Mark takes off his headphones.
Mark, Dana and Ronald get up. Mark comes from behind the desk and extends his hand to Ronald, who returns the handshake. Dana shakes Ronald's hand but rebuffs Mark's extended hand. After an awkward moment, she turns around and walks out. Ronald and Mark follow. They walk through the station to the front door. Mark’s co-host opens the door and Dana walks out. Kate walks in and greets Mark.
“Mark! I was listening to the show on the way over here! You are too funny!” Kate says as Ronald turns to Mark and extends his hand again.
“Thanks again for letting me be on the show. I’ll see you around.” Ronald says as he walks out.
“My pleasure Ronald, I want to have you on again once you mount the show. Hey Kate.”
“That must have been Dana. She doesn’t look too happy.”
“She really got mad when I told people to push the Admin to reverse their decision.”
“Ouch. Let’s head to the studio.” As Kate and Mark turn around, Mark bumps into Karl, who is not happy.
“Why is it that when I say, ‘tread lightly’, you dance and stomp? I just got off the phone with a LIVID Frank, who wants the both of us to be waiting for him when he gets here at 8am tomorrow. I hope you don’t have a class because you're going to miss it.”
“Am I in trouble?” Mark asks.
“Not until he sees the whites of our eyes in the morning. Hi, Kate. Can you control him for the next half hour while you two are on the air?”
“About as much as you can,” Kate replies as she and Mark head over to the studio for the second half of their broadcast.
The next morning Frank Kaplan, the station manager, pulls up to the radio station. Mark and Karl wait apprehensively at the front window for their heads to roll. They watch as he drives into his parking spot, turns off the car, sits for a moment, grabs his briefcase, opens the door and emerges out of his 2008 Honda Accord. Frank catches Mark and Karl's eyes, which he holds as he closes his door, marches to the front of the building, opens the door and walks in. Mark and Karl follow him into his office, where he takes off his coat, places his briefcase on his desk, turns on his computer and begins to brew a cup of coffee. Mark and Karl watch in bewildered amusement. Frank watches the coffee maker as it begins brewing. He takes three mugs, wipes them with a paper towel and continues watching the coffee maker brew. When it finishes, he pours three cups of coffee, walks over to his desk, places two cups on one side, one cup on his side, sits in his chair and invites Mark and Karl to sit down as well. Slowly, so as to not startle Frank with any sudden movement, they both take a seat on the other side of Frank's desk. Frank begins to speak. And then doesn’t. He does this three more times before finally putting words together.
“My next door neighbor has a crush on me,” Frank says. Mark and Karl take a beat, turn to each other and then turn back to Frank, who continues. “It’s very disconcerting. He’s married.”
Mark and Karl stare blankly at Frank. “Does that make me gay?” Frank asks.
Mark is surprisingly at a loss for words. Content with not speaking at this moment, he offers Karl the opportunity to respond. “Frank, I understand. And I'm very sorry. And I don’t think your neighbor thinks you're gay.”
“Mr. Henry, if I had seen you yesterday I probably would have hoisted you up a flagpole," Frank continues. "I want you to know that I spoke to nine angry members of the Administration who didn’t appreciate your comments in the least. On the other hand, Karl showed me 110 emails from students and town residents applauding your skewering of the Administration and of Ms. Jordan. However, 14 people called to tell us that they found you a little brazen. I shared this with the Administration. Though they want to take disciplinary action, I told them that would not be in their best interest to do so. But they are issuing you a warning. You are free to dissent their policies but further comparisons to Nazi Germany will not tolerated.”
Mark looks to Karl for some guidance as to how he should react at this point. Karl avoids eye contact this time.
“Understood.” Mark replies, figuring it was best he keep his response rather succinct.
“You two may go now,” Frank says, ushering them out. Mark and Karl rise out of their chair and head out of his office as if they’d been fired off The Apprentice. Mark and Karl hear Frank's door close behind them. Karl gives Mark an angry look and heads off to the office he shares with the station’s program director. Mark decides to give him some time to calm down and heads to the cafeteria for a bite to eat on his way back to his on-campus apartment to take a nap before leading a campus tour later that day. As he passes by the nearby Administration Building, he notices several students crowded outside.
"What's going on?" Mark asks a student.
“A bunch of us are gathered here to get the Admin to let some guy do some gay play.”
“How did you find out about it?” Mark asks.
“A friend of mine told me about it. She was listening to Mark Henry’s radio show. He had on the play guy and the nutjob who got the Admin to stop the play guy from doing the gay play. Mark suggested people talk to the Admin and get them to change their mind. It’s exciting, you know, doing something for the cause.”
“Free speech, man. It’s all about free speech. There’s a whole bunch of people inside. The whole campus is talking about it.”
“Really? I didn’t know people cared that much.”
“Most of us didn’t even hear the show, but when people found out about it, they just knew it was bullshit and then Mark told us to do something about it.”
“Is he here?”
“Mark? Don’t know. I don’t know what he looks like, but he’s awesome for bringing this to our attention.”
“Thanks, man. Take care,” Mark says as he continues walking toward his apartment. Jan Ebbets, the Dean of Students, squeezes out of the Administration Building past all the students waiting outside to be heard. She notices Mark walking by and rushes down the stairs after him. He hears the footsteps and turns around, then wishes he hadn’t. Mark had known Dean Ebbets since his freshman year when he was randomly selected to attend a retreat for a newly-formed leadership development group. The Dean was very impressed with how he carried himself and also with his active participation in each session. Being a third-year student, he’d been in some trouble with her before. Mark isn't a mischievous student, but his vocality has previously landed him in various meetings with various people from various departments for various reasons. Mark stops walking to give Dean Ebbets a chance to catch up. She is not happy.
“Mark, it is my understanding that you are somewhat responsible for all of this chaos?”
“Hi, Dean. I understand the same thing.”
“They’ve been coming in droves for almost an hour. This is not how I like to spend my Friday mornings.”
“I just got blasted by Frank at the radio station,” Mark explains.
“What were you thinking?”
“I was just speaking my mind.”
“I would suggest that next time you actually mind what you speak. You do realize that I am part of the Administration that you took aim at."
Mark hadn’t. He likes Dean Ebbets and was happy to have her in his camp whenever his mouth got him into some hot water. She had warned him many times about his comments. He hoped she didn’t take these comments personally, but they needed to be said.
“Now come with me. You are going to help us do some damage control.” Dean Ebbets says as she escorts Mark through the crowd.
“It’s Mark Henry!!” a student exclaims. The crowd starts cheering and applauding, to the embarrassment of Mark and the increasing frustration of Dean Ebbets. She isn’t angry, but she isn’t thrilled to have to deal with this. Dean Ebbets was out of the office when the final decision was made by her immediate supervisor, the Vice-President of Administrative Matters.
Once inside the Adminstration Building, Mark is greeted with more pats on the backs and “good jobs” from people he had never met or seen before, but feel empowered by his stand against the Administration. Dean Ebbets takes him to see Mr. Rayka, the Vice-President of Administrative Matters and Dean Ebbet’s boss. She knocks and is invited in.
“Good morning, Mark. Please take a seat,” Mr. Rayka says as Mark and Dean Ebbets walk in. Mark prefers to stand but he doesn’t want to ruffle any more feathers than he already has. Mark obediently takes a seat and says nothing.
Mr. Rayka speaks very gravely. “This is quite a mess you’ve gotten us into, not to mention yourself. What do you suppose we do about this?” Mark turns to Dean Ebbets, who offers him nothing. He turns back to Mr. Rayka and chooses his words very carefully.
“Let me begin by saying that I stand by my comments but, in hindsight, I should have chosen my words more wisely.” Mark doesn’t remember exactly what he said on the air and hasn’t yet heard the playback, but now understands that he probably crossed a line somewhere in the broadcast. Dean Ebbets turns her attention to Mr. Rayka, who is slowly processing Mark’s carefully chosen words.
“I would very strongly suggest you remember that or the run of your radio program will be very short-lived. Do we have an understanding?”
“You may go now. But before you do…regarding that crowd outside…they are here because of you. I want them gone because of you—quick and in a hurry.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you," Mark replies. "I will be. I mean, they will be...gone.”
Relieved, Mark turns to leave. As he approaches the door, he hears the faint din of the students on the other side who have skipped classes and risked their own disciplinary action on account of his apparently very influential words.
Mark turns around. “Mr. Rayka?” he asks as Dean Ebbets throws him a “get out of here with your head” look.
“Yes, Mr. Henry.”