In the last of a series of mishaps involving Jim Steinman's "The Dream Engine," the South Hadley Police appeared at Chapin Auditorium last night to check into complaints of nudity in the production. The rock musical, written as part of Steinman's Independent Study project, and directed as part of Barry Keating's Independent Study project, was performed at Amherst last weekend.
In the three performances at Amherst and at Saturday night's performance at Mt. Holyoke, several members of the cast appeared nude in the final scenes of the show, "The Revolution in Words and Music." There had been no formal complaints lodged until last night.
The author, director and members of the cast felt that the nudity in the production was artistically justified, and essential to the theme of the play. (Steinman's statement on nudity in the theater appears on page 3.)
South Hadley Deputy Chief of Police Perreault appeared at the box office in Chapin Auditorium last night at approximately 9 p.m. The officer said that he had heard there was nudity in the show and asked Susan Richardson (MHC '69), President of the Mt. Holyoke Dramatics Club which sponsored the Mt. Holyoke performances of the production, if this was so. Richardson told Deputy Chief Perreault that this was the case, but that the nudity could be eliminated.
Perreault said "Well I've read about this in the Boston papers, and they say if it's art, it's alright. Is this an art show?" Richardson and Bob Nathan '70, the associate producer of the show, explained that the nudity was artistically justifiable, but that the nudity would be eliminated for the last night's performance.
Chief of Police Calls
At that point, the Deputy Chief left with the two officers who had accompanied him. About fifteen minutes later, Richardson received a call from South Hadley Chief of Police Henry Decker. The Chief requested that Richardson locate Wayne Gass, Assistant Treasurer of Mt. Holyoke, who was in the audience.
Gass, however, walked into Chapin several minutes later and told Richardson that he had just spoken to Chief Decker and that "you're putting them in a very difficult position. You're putting the College in a very difficult position too." Richardson assured Gass that there would be no nudity and he said "Well fine, if you'll cooperate, that's all I'm here for."
Revolution Metaphor Lost
During the intermission, Richardson spoke to the cast and explained the situation. She had spoken earlier to Mt. Holyoke Dean of Students Ruth Warfel and told the cast that assurances had been given, prior to the performances that there would be no nudity if legal problems arose. She also told the cast that she had assured the police that there would be no nudity.
Several members of the cast were upset by the decision but agreed to abide by it. Steinman commented after the production that he felt the frustration of not being able to perform nude.
"The metaphor of revolution had been lost," he said. During the "Street-Fighting Prayer," Steinman screamed. He said "it wasn't exactly revolutionary, but at that point, it was the best I could do."
'Best Thing Possible'
Richardson commented that she had no choice in asking the cast not to perform nude. "I'm not the only one involved," she said. "Cast members and production people are all involved, as is the College. I think we did the best thing possible."
In an interview later with Deputy Chief Perreault, he said "I heard that in the last scene when man reverts to the savage, they run out nude. I asked if this was true." He said that he was told there was nudity, but that "they were trying to screen the audience by age."
Perreault also said that "she (Richardson) volunteered to have the cast wear bikinis in the last scene and I said that would be agreeable."
Perreault said that the "word out referred to it as a 'dirty play.' I don't know what's in that last scene, but I do know that non-students have been talking about 'the dirty play."' Perreault had not seen the play but said that some people outside of the College community were going to see it only because they had heard of the nudity in the production.
"I don't intend to go back," Perreault said in the interview while the play was still in progress. There was no mention of closing the show or arresting members of the cast.Original publication scan