Kristin Chenoweth vs. Newsweek

Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth has a bone to pick with Newsweek. The magazine posted an April 26th online article discussing the struggle that openly gay actors allegedly face when playing heterosexual characters on stage and screen. And in particular, they called out Chenoweth’s costar Sean Hayes as Exhibit A.

Big mistake. Chenoweth is spittin’ mad.

I’ve read the original article on Newsweek.com and thought it a good read… I haven’t seen Hayes and Chenoweth in their play Promises, Promises so I can’t comment on how believable he is in the role. Chenoweth, though, defends him vigorously in her rebuttal.

Here’s the full text of her comment, compliments of Newsweek.com via Broadway.com:

As a longtime fan of Newsweek and as the actress currently starring opposite the incredibly talented (and sexy!) Sean Hayes in the Broadway revival of Promises, Promises, I was shocked on many levels to see Newsweek publishing Ramin Setoodeh’s horrendously homophobic “Straight Jacket,” which argues that gay actors are simply unfit to play straight. From where I stand, on stage, with Hayes, every night — I’ve observed nothing “wooden” or “weird” in his performance, nor have I noticed the seemingly unwieldy presence of a “pink elephant” in the Broadway Theater. (The Drama League, Outer Critics Circle and Tony members must have also missed that large animal when nominating Hayes’ performance for its highest honors this year.)

I’d normally keep silent on such matters and write such small-minded viewpoints off as perhaps a blip in common sense. But the offense I take to this article, and your decision to publish it, is not really even related to my profession or my work with Hayes or Jonathan Groff (also singled out in the article as too “queeny” to play “straight.”)

This article offends me because I am a human being, a woman and a Christian. For example, there was a time when Jewish actors had to change their names because anti-Semites thought no Jew could convincingly play Gentile. Setoodeh even goes so far as to justify his knee-jerk homophobic reaction to gay actors by accepting and endorsing that “as viewers, we are molded by a society obsessed with dissecting sexuality, starting with the locker room torture in junior high school.” Really? We want to maintain and proliferate the same kind of bullying that makes children cry and in some recent cases have even taken their own lives? That’s so sad, Newsweek! The examples he provides (what scientists call “selection bias”) to prove his “gays can’t play straight” hypothesis are sloppy in my opinion. Come on now!

Openly gay Groff is too “queeny” to play Lea Michele’s boyfriend in Glee, but is a “heartthrob” when he does it in Spring Awakening? Cynthia Nixon only “got away with it” ’cause she peaked before coming out? I don’t know if you’ve missed the giant Sex and the City movie posters, but it seems most of America is “buying it.” I could go on, but I assume these will be taken care of in your “Corrections” this week.

Similarly, thousands of people have traveled from all over the world to enjoy Hayes’ performance and don’t seem to have one single issue with his sexuality! They have no problem buying him as a love-torn heterosexual man. Audiences aren’t giving a darn about who a person is sleeping with or his personal life. Give me a break! We’re actors first, whether we’re playing prostitutes, baseball players, or the Lion King. Audiences come to theater to go on a journey. It’s a character and it’s called acting, and I’d put Hayes and his brilliance up there with some of the greatest actors period.

Lastly, as someone who’s been proudly advocating for equal rights and supporting GLBT causes for as long as I can remember, I know how much it means to young people struggling with their sexuality to see out & proud actors like Sean Hayes, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris and Cynthia Nixon succeeding in their work without having to keep their sexuality a secret. No one needs to see a bigoted, factually inaccurate article that tells people who deviate from heterosexual norms that they can’t be open about who they are and still achieve their dreams. I am told on good authority that Mr. Setoodeh is a gay man himself and I would hope, as the author of this article, he would at least understand that. I encourage Newsweek to embrace stories which promote acceptance, love, unity and singing and dancing for all!

–Kristin Chenoweth

You get it, girl!

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3 Responses to Kristin Chenoweth vs. Newsweek

  1. Melanie says:

    I love Cheno! She speaks truly from the heart and the mind. I’ve heard it said that she is a powerhouse performer in a small package. Yet, this example is one of many that convince me that she is a powerhouse of humanity, decency and compassion as well! I found the original Newsweek article to be trite and frankly unworthy of publication. For me then, the real tragedy here is that someone at Newsweek made a huge faux-paus in publishing this to begin with. As Cheno correctly points out, there are inaccuracies with the reporting and there is bigotry in abundance. Whether the author of the article is gay or straight is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the author feels that he is a qualified critic of the theatre. This fact which is obviously a falsehood, is based upon his shallow knowledge of the art of acting and of the history of those who have pursued that profession. It is a shame that apparently any Joe off the street, who has a bone to pick, can now be printed in, what used to be, an honored and respected news media.

  2. Anthony says:

    Isn’t acting in simplest description pretending to be someone or something else? If you’re not doing that well, then it’s got nothing to do with your sexuality. If you appear wooden or unconvincing in a role, you’re more likely not that great of an actor. (Not commenting on Hayes, never seen him to be able to comment on him in particular)

  3. Austin says:

    Aaron Sorkin responded to Kristin’s response here:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aaron-sorkin/now-that-you-mention-it-r_b_574210.html.

    An excerpt:
    “But with sincere respect to Ms. Chenoweth and the hundreds and hundreds of Internet posters who’ve crashed down on Setoodeh in the last few days — some understandably passionate and some unfortunately hostile — I don’t think Setoodeh was being homophobic. Just wrong.

    The problem doesn’t have anything to do with sexual preference. The problem has everything to do with the fact that we know too much about each other and we care too much about what we know. In one short decade we have been reconditioned to be entertained by the most private areas of other people’s lives. We’ve become the family dog who’s allowed to eat anything that falls on the floor, and the press is the little kid in the family who keeps dropping food. Sandy Bullock’s life falls apart? That’s for us. A golfer gets caught with strippers? We’ll take that, thank you. Lindsay Lohan’s an alcoholic? Mmm, mmm good! When Jennifer Aniston plays a movie character who’s looking for love, her performance — always sublime — doesn’t stand a chance against the real story we’ve been told it’s okay to pay attention to, which is that Jennifer Aniston is looking for love. I can’t hum a single John Mayer song but I can name five women he’s slept with. Sean, for Setoodeh, the show began before you even showed up to the theater that night.”

    Touché, Mr. Sorkin! I love that man. And Kristin Chenoweth. Damn, if Joss Whedon weighs in on this I might have a heart attack.

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