Tennessee Tech University's initial production last year of Eve Ensler's award-winning play Vagina Monologues was surrounded by controversy — but this year, its director is being honored for his intellectual commitment.
Mark Creter, artistic director of TTU's Backdoor Playhouse, received this year's Intellectual Freedom Award from the Tennessee Council of Teachers of English for his courage in bringing the controversial play to Cookeville audiences.
"In a more sophisticated metropolitan area, the simple act of producing this controversial play would not be noteworthy, but in conservative Cookeville. . . it was an act of courage," said Suellen Alfred, associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction at TTU, who nominated Creter for the award.
Creter — who will attend an honorary breakfast at the National Council of Teachers of English in Atlanta next month — said he was proud of the production.
"I'm proud of the fact that, for a few months in 2001, everybody was talking about vaginas and that the show raised awareness of important women's issues and raised money to support women in need," he said.
"I'm proud of the people on TTU's Commission on the Status of Women who supported the production. I'm proud that Vagina Monologues is going to be produced for a third time this year, and I'm proud of the many women involved in both the 2001 production I directed and the 2002 production directed by former student Lindsey Hines," Creter continued.
Although he says he's never chosen a play simply because it's controversial, Creter adds that he doesn't mind "pushing the envelope" from time to time.
"I've never chosen a play because it was controversial — I choose plays because they're interesting and challenging, and I work hard on making sure they're all terrific productions," he said. "Language and adult content don't concern me if the play is good. A play is a play. People make them controversial by their reactions to them."
The Intellectual Freedom Awards have been given at national, state, regional and affiliate levels since 1997 to recognize individuals, groups and institutions who have advanced the cause of intellectual freedom.