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Wicked Composer Bans N.C. Shows in Wake of Anti-LGBT Bill

Stephen Schwartz

The Tony-award winning Broadway composer, Stephen Schwartz, and his collaborators are halting all productions of Wicked in the state of North Carolina in protest of the state passing House Bill 2, a sweeping anti-LGBT bill.

Schwartz is calling on other Broadway productions to follow suit in hopes that it will send a sign to other states considering passing similar "religious liberty" bills in the future, reports The Charlotte Observer. HB 2 strikes down local nondiscrimination ordinances across the state and makes it illegal for transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. 

Schwartz is the man behind Wicked, Godspell, and Pippin, and he pledged that as long as HB 2 remains law, he will not allow his productions to be performed in the Tar Heel State.

"I feel that it is very important that any state that passes such a law suffer economic and cultural consequences, partly because it is deserved and partly to discourage other states from following suit," said Schwartz.

The legendary composer urged other Broadway luminaries outraged about the bill to do the same.

“If you are in agreement, you may want to join me in refusing to license our properties to, or permit productions of our work by, theaters and organizations in North Carolina until this heinous legislation is repealed,” he wrote.

His proposed boycott could have a crippling impact on the state’s theater industry. In 2015 alone, Wicked brought in $90 million on Broadway, and the popular musical continues to be a cash cow at locations across the country.

In an email to the News and Record, Mitchel Sommers, who serves as executive director for the Community Theatre of Greensboro, called the decision “a theatrical disaster.”

“CTG’s bread and butter is its shows, which all must get royalty permission from their owners in order to be produced,” Sommers said. “If Stephen Schwartz’s ban on N.C. theaters producing his work is mirrored by his other Broadway colleagues, which is inevitable, what are we going to put on?”

In a Facebook post, Jamie Lawson, the artistic director for the Theatre Alliance in Winston-Salem, urged Schwartz to rethink the boycott. The theatre alliance is set to stage a production of Pippin in 2017.

Lawson argued that pulling out of North Carolina would “[affect] the wrong population.”

“If your suggested boycott occurs, it will likely put our nonprofit theater company of 32 years… out of business,” he said. “From a 45-year-old gay man who grew up in a rural town and turned to theater in the darkest hour, I would hate to see the whole state go dark because of a few bigoted individuals who care nothing about a theatrical boycott, anyway. You wouldn’t be hurting them; you would be hurting us… your supporters.”

Schwartz, however, is just one voice in the entertainment industry calling to redirect future business from the state.

In a statement from the Human Rights Campaign, director Rob Reiner — best known for helming When Harry Met Sally — said that he no longer plans to shoot in the state. Lionsgate, A&E, and ABC, all of which have productions that are currently filming in North Carolina, say that they will be considering taking future projects elsewhere. Currently, the state ranks as the 10th most-popular filming location.

After studios like Disney and Marvel threatened to discontinue business relationships with production houses in Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a religious freedom bill that would have allowed businesses to deny services to customers based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Following a 2015 boycott that cost the state a reported $60 million in lost revenue, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence “fixed” language in his state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act allowing for discrimination against LGBT individuals. A similar bill was passed last week by the Mississippi legislature. House Bill 1522, also known as the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act, currently awaits a decision from the state’s Republican governor, Phil Bryant.

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