Drag show sparks controversy at Knox County commission meeting
‘A Drag Queen Christmas’ will be performed at the Tennessee Theatre on Thursday.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - On Thursday, “A Drag Queen Christmas” show will be performed at the Tennessee Theatre, which has been a show met with criticism and defense from both sides of the issue.
Pastor Ken Peters is one of the people organizing efforts to speak out against the show with concerns for who would be seeing it.
“To then allow children in is despicable they should not even allow children to be in there,” said Peters.
The Tennessee Theatre Executive Director Becky Hancock said the show has a “parental discretion advised” warning and the belief is that it’s enough notice for families to decide whether or not to bring children. Her position is that parents can make the decision on whether or not to bring their children, just like any other performance.
“I strongly believe, both personally and as the director of this organization, that decisions on what children should or should not see should be left up to their parents or guardians. This goes for live events, movies, television shows, books, recorded music, social media and other content. So, more broadly, everything should be viewed through the lens of ‘parental discretion is advised,” said Hancock.
At Monday’s Knox County Commission meeting, the topic wasn’t on the agenda, but several people made comments during the public forum section.
“You will see nothing at a drag show that you wouldn’t see on dancing with the stars, a child’s pageant or a cheerleader at a football game,” said one drag performer in attendance.
The topic became emotional for some attendees. One man brought a replica spine to the meeting, waving it in the air.
“I brought this to remind you of what a spine looks like grow one,” the attendee said to the commission.
Pastor Peters said if the show doesn’t get canceled he, along with several others, plan to stand outside the theatre on Thursday night and protest the show going on.
The theatre released a statement on the event, as follows:
The Tennessee Theatre is aware that some individuals or groups may plan to protest outside of the venue on Thursday, Dec. 22, in conjunction with the showing of “A Drag Queen Christmas.” As city streets and sidewalks are public property, the Tennessee Theatre cannot control what happens outside our facility, as long as safe egress from the building is not restricted in the unlikely event of an emergency. We have notified City of Knoxville officials so they can determine what oversight may be needed to help ensure access and egress is maintained, and we will work with on-site security and the proper authorities to ensure safety for our patrons and performers. We also have received a small number of complaints about the show being advertised for “all ages.” To clarify, an earlier version of the marketing copy provided by the promoter that is renting the theatre for the event included that phrase, and we removed it. The approved description of the show is posted currently on the event calendar listing at TennesseeTheatre.com. The current description notes that “parental discretion is advised,” which could be used for many types of content or subject matter. We understand that every event presented at the Tennessee Theatre will not be enjoyed or considered appropriate by/for all people, regardless of age. We state on our website that we expect patrons to make their own decisions as to whether they would like to attend an event. If not, we advise that person not to buy a ticket and not to attend. I strongly believe, both personally and as the director of this organization, that decisions on what children should or should not see should be left up to their parents or guardians. This goes for live events, movies, television shows, books, recorded music, social media and other content. So, more broadly, everything should be viewed through the lens of “parental discretion is advised.” The Tennessee Theatre is proud to offer a wide variety of events, entertainment and experiences for the public to consider and attend if they so choose. We appreciate hearing compliments, feedback, questions and concerns from the public, and we remain committed to contributing to the robust and diverse arts and cultural fabric of our community.
No decision was made on the show.
The show wasn’t the only topic discussed during public forum, however. The commission also spoke on whether or not to establish an oversite board for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office following a controversial series of actions taken by sheriff’s office officials.
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