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Milwaukee arts
center fights for Naked Boys Singing!

Milwaukee arts
center fights for Naked Boys Singing!

An arts center hopes to have Naked Boys Singing! onstage again next month. The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center is trying to make arrangements to resume performances of the musical revue, which features nudity. Police shut the performance down August 18 in a dispute over whether the center needed a theater license.

The center received a letter Friday from the city's license division indicating officials believed the center's nonprofit status meant it did not need a theater license after all, said Richard Hart, the center's attorney. The center started staging performances of Naked Boys Singing! August 11 and was scheduled to continue them until September 3.

But police vice officers told officials August 18 they needed the theater license, according to a claim Hart filed August 23 with the city. The officers ordered the center to shut down the production immediately or face the possibility of prosecution, according to the claim. Naked Boys Singing! has run into trouble with authorities before in such cities as Provincetown, Mass.; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Atlanta. Eventually, all three cities allowed performances of the show.

Hart said Monday the center was seeking clarification from the license division on any more information officers there might need. "We are shooting for resuming the production in mid September," Hart said. The gay-themed show is billed as celebrating male nudity in comedy, song, and dance. It features actors who are in the buff for some of the performance.

The claim filed last week contended that police selectively enforced the license ordinance against the center and seeks about $630,000 in punitive damages, legal fees, and lost revenue. It said proceeds from the production had been designated to be given to various AIDS research groups and theater groups.

Hart said the center was continuing to pursue the claim. Deputy city attorney Rudolph Konrad, who said last week his office was investigating the matter, did not immediately return a call Monday from the AP. "This issue has really put a black eye on the city," said Don Hoffman, a codirector of the center. (AP)

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