Preaching to the Perverted: A Tour of the Dark Side of Democracy | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Preaching to the Perverted: A Tour of the Dark Side of Democracy 

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Holly Hughes was one of the NEA Four, artists whose work was deemed too subversive for subsidy. It may come as a surprise, then, that her solo show is fiercely patriotic. Hughes's account of her suit against the National Endowment for the Arts echoes the classic American complaint, first enunciated by Thomas Jefferson, about our government failing to live up to its own ideals. But even if you're bored by the inner workings of the legal system, Preaching to the Perverted is still worth your time as a take on the experience of sudden fame, an analysis of symbols, and a critique of herd journalism. Hughes also explores the homophobia that lies not far beneath the surface of debates about support for artists, engaging in a frantic search for "the gay agenda" and observing that there's actually plenty of publicly funded speech about gays--"it's just presented by Jesse Helms and Trent Lott." Most important, however, Hughes reminds us that her experience is not isolated, surrounding herself with cardboard boxes marked with dates that will live in infamy: the day a Cincinnati museum director was jailed for displaying Mapplethorpe, the day Chicago politicians demanded that the School of the Art Institute remove Dread Scott Tyler's What Is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag? And we're reminded of why the upcoming election matters so much when she impanels a Supreme Court consisting of identical rubber ducks. Despite the self-deprecating title, this show--originally presented here in July as part of Bailiwick's Pride 2000 series--rewards the attention of supporters and skeptics alike. It's presented as part of "The Future of the Queer Past: A Transnational History Conference," an event that also features a performance of Civil Sex: The Life of Bayard Rustin (see separate Performance listing). University of Chicago, Ida Noyes Hall, Max Palevsky Theatre, 1212 E. 59th, 773-834-4509. Thursday, September 14, 8 PM. $10.

--Kelly Kleiman

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