The following letter was written late Saturday night and put in the mail Sunday after Wendy and I attended the theater at the River Campus:
Dear Gary Miller, Robert Cerchio, Rhonda Weller-Stilson, Ken Stilson, Robert Dillon, President Dr. Ken Dobbins:
Gary and I just returned from seeing the Christopher Duran plays, "The Actor's Nightmare" and "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All to You." We had been out of town, and having just returned it was our first opportunity to see the productions at the Wendy Kurka Rust Flexible Theatre.
We went with an open mind having been forewarned that the plays were offensive and in bad taste. We were prepared for the worst. "The Actor's Nightmare" proved to be otherwise. It was well acted, staged and made a humorous statement about nightmares that I think everyone in the audience could relate to in some avant-garde way.
However, "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All to You" -- no matter how well acted, lighted, costumed and directed -- was a bad choice. It turned out to be the real nightmare of the evening.
To present a play that ridicules and scorns the Christian religion under the label of satire is inappropriate to be included in the offering of season ticket holders. A case can be made that it's right to challenge a student's acting ability in roles like this, but it's not fair to include them in a subscription ticket series.
If you feel the public is needed for these kinds of productions and not just those in student lab-classroom critics, let the plays stand on their own. It will be interesting to see how many would choose to support them.
The success of the River Campus' being able to attract audiences to its venues depends on the financial support of all the communities in the Bootheel. Surely there are plays "out there" that can be challenging for students to act in that add meaningful understanding, humor or uplifting worth to the lives of those who come to see them.
Again, Gary and I applaud the caliber of students enrolled in the Holland School of the Visual and Performing arts at Southeast Missouri State University and the professors who are able to magnify the talent of the students.
We wish you well but hope you'll be more considerate to your audience's feelings.
Sincerely yours, Wendy Rust
Wendy is more diplomatic than I am. In the last five years we have seen more than 50 theater performances in St. Louis, New York, Chicago and Cape Girardeau. Two of the three most morally offensive were "Coyote Ugly" and "Sister Ignatius" performed here in Cape Girardeau.
I would hope the university administration, department heads and some local religious leaders would read the script to understand my concern about this satirical attack on religious beliefs -- the play selected for public performance by students.
The "nun" in this play (well acted, as were all of the characters) who spouts and expresses nonreligious beliefs and then shoots and kills two of her former students was a little over the top, as was much of the play.
Gary Rust is the chairman of Rust Communications.