An Off Off Broadway production performed by a cast of children has received some unwanted attention from the Church of Scientology. “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant,” which opens Thursday at the Tank on 42nd Street, tells the life story of L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer who founded a religion whose adherents include Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Alex Timbers, who conceived and directed the show, imagined it in the “idiom of a Nativity pageant,” so he cast children 8 to 12.
– L. Ron Hubbard. See The Purpose of a Lawsuit is to Harass
The Rev. John Carmichael, president of the Church of Scientology in New York, is not amused. He has visited the artistic staff to express his concern three times and sent a stern letter to the producer, Aaron Lemon-Strauss, pointedly outlining many of the church’s past lawsuits. “I have not seen the show,” Mr. Carmichael said by phone on Wednesday, “but in general I don’t think you should ridicule a religion that helps people.”
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Mr. Timbers says the show has a “deeply ironic concept” but does not mock the church. “We allow the church to speak for itself,” he said, calling the show “a celebration of sorts.” But just to be on the safe side, Mr. Timbers consulted lawyers. “We’ve been told that the letter is a precursor to a lawsuit,” he said.
Mr. Carmichael said: “I’ve been assured that the intention is humor, not ridicule. So if it’s genuinely funny, that’s O.K.” He’ll find out next Friday, when he plans to see the show.