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A Scientology Christmas Pageant?

By Amy Mikel in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 19, 2008 4:36PM

2008_11_18_scientology.jpgOn Monday, A Red Orchid Theater began running the Chicago premiere of a musical called A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant. And yes, the point of the show is make fun of Scientology, without actually making fun of Scientology.

Here's how it works: to circumvent direct commentary, creators Kyle Jarrow and Alex Timbers use a cast of prepubescent actors to play the role of awkward children of Scientologists forced to perform in an amateur holiday pageant about the religion. During the pageant, the children deliver Scientology's principles - like Dianetics, the Electropsychometer, Thetans and Xenu - in deadpan format, from a script almost entirely based off L. Ron Hubbard's "teachings" and official church literature. On developing the concept of the show, Jarrow says, "I did a lot of work on cults in college, and what I learned is that they sort of turn you into a child by appealing to that part of you that wants to be taken care of and given answers. And so it all began to make sense to me."

The show orginally premiered in New York City in 2003, and has had steadily good reception ever since. But the church of Scientology? Initially not so happy with A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant. Jarrow and Timbers were advised by lawyers to insert the word "unauthorized" into the title after John Carmichael, president of the Church of Scientology in New York, personally delivered a letter threatening litigation after attending rehearsals of the show. Things have been fairly quiet since then, and although the Trib recently tried hard to solict a comment from The Church of Scientology, the church has remained zip-lipped on the play's local run.