Students are rebelling against South Carolina lawmakers who approved funding cuts for the College of Charleston because a gay-themed book is included in the curriculum. Hundreds of students are purchasing tickets to the musical “Fun Home,” which is based on the illustrated memoir of the same title that details author Alison Bechdel’s coming to terms with her sexuality.
A spokeswoman for the liberal arts college, which has 11,000 undergraduates, said the two Monday performances are selling fast. The tickets cost $10 or $15, and so far 900 of the 1,500 available tickets have been sold, according to Reuters. The special musical is being staged by the original cast and creative team of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize finalist. They offered to perform for free.
The Republican-controlled state House voted last month to slash $52,000 from the college and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate, two public colleges with freshman reading lists that include gay and lesbian themes. The students are not forced to read the books and have the option to change courses. But that didn’t stop state Rep. Gary Smith, a Republican, from proposing to punish the schools by taking away the amount of money they spend on required-reading books.
“One of the things I learned over the years is that if you want to make a point, you have to make it hurt,” Smith told The State newspaper of Columbia in February. “I understand academic freedom, but this is not academic freedom. ... This was about promoting one side with no academic debate involved.”
Some of Smith’s colleagues tried to restore the funding, but the measure was voted down 13-0 in the Ways and Means Committee. The Republican-led Senate is currently considering the measure.
Bechdel, a lesbian whose father was a closeted gay man, was invited to speak at the college last fall. She told Playbill.com that she doesn’t understand what legislators “find so objectionable about the book.” She further told the Broadway website, “There is something particularly obscene and perverse about their act of censorship given that ‘Fun Home’ is about the human cost of sexual shame and secrecy.”