COLUMBIA — When Michael Bailey set out to place small classified-type advertising for his company’s new production and its casting calls, he hardly thought he’d soon find himself embroiled in a controversy over “community concerns.”
The production, “Naked Boys Singing,” has been well-received internationally and at home, after being performed on and off Broadway for a decade. “Naked Boys” has also caused controversy due to the production’s nudity and gay content.
On Aug. 15, Bailey’s company, MBF Productions, paid for online list advertising for “Naked Boys Singing” casting calls in the general announcements section of The State newspaper’s website. On Aug. 19, MBF received notice their ad had been canceled.
“We have canceled both your ads and issued you a full refund,” wrote The State’s Michael Dudash in a support email to MBF. “Because of the nature of the content, we cannot run these ads. Thank you!”
The ad read, “Auditions for Naked Boys Singing will be at the Ramada Limited, Monday & Tuesday, August 25 & 26, 2008 7 PM – 10 PM. Ramada Limited, 1315 Garner Lane. This is Broad River Road at I-20, Exit 65. South side of Interstate. Auditions will be clothed as will be most of the rehearsals. CAST: Roles are available for 10 males ages 18 to 32 in good physical condition. Looking for average-Joe types that can physically sing and dance. visit our website www.mbfproductions.org for full info.”
Two days later, on Aug. 21, Bailey contacted Betsy Guzior, features editor for the daily Columbia newspaper — the largest in South Carolina.
According to Bailey, Guzior said she would only be willing to list the production of “Naked Boys Singing” as “a male revue” and only in the B section of the paper. Bailey also said Guzior insisted that the name of the production not be used.
“I consider this to be a very anti-gay move,” Bailey told Q-Notes, pointing to the production’s gay content and popularity with gay male audiences. He also said he and the company believes The State’s decision to cancel their advertising and refuse editorial coverage is censorship.
Guzior, Bailey claimed, had a “major problem with the title.”
“I don’t even understand why you would want to do something like that (this play),” Bailey said Guzior exclaimed over the phone.
Bailey also said Guzior put the question of a possible review or article on the production out of the question, despite having a staff writer for the paper contact the production company just days prior.
Q-Notes contacted Guzior who declined to comment and directed our questions to The State Executive Editor Mark Latt. Several phone calls made to Latt were unreturned by press time.
Controversy over the musical has hit the Carolinas before. On May 3, 2008, Q-Notes reported that the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources put a stop to a “Naked Boys” production staged in Winston-Salem at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA).
State officials gave the group a flat “no” when they approached them with a request to house the performance. The state took operational control of the venue last year. It was established as a private, non-profit entity in 1956.
North Carolina officials said then the performance was “not appropriate programming for a public museum.”