“The Vagina Monolouges,” won’t be suspended after public complaints of it being obscene and inappropriate.
Ocala city council decided Thursday that the show will play at an Ocala-owned theater.
The first person to speak on the issue was Brad Dinkins. He was against the “The Vagina Monologues” coming to a city-owned theater because he said he believed it wasn’t right for women or the community.
“To me, all women should be honored, esteemed and held in high regard,” Dinkins said. “Not treated like an object to be hunted down and captured for selfish desires.”
Dinkins argued “community standards” should allow the city council to decide what shows belonged in city-owned venues.
“It is the council’s job to determine what performances and movies are good or bad in light of what is upright and virtuous,” Dinkins said.
Dinkins spoke for four minutes more than his allotted time.
The next speaker was Lori Cotton, an Ocala resident and attorney. Cotton spoke on the First Amendment and told council members they had no authority to cancel a show.
“You can’t give the city council, you can’t give the city, power in a contract that it doesn’t have,” Cotton said. “The Constitution says you don’t have that power; you don’t have that power.”
Cotton addressed Dinkins’ argument about “community standards” by saying that it only applies to obscenity.
“‘The Vagina Monologues’ is pretty mainstream-theater,” Cotton said. “There is no lawyer in the country that is going to tell you that it comes anywhere close to obscenity standards.”
The Rev. Donald Curran said he agreed with Dinkins. Curran said he didn’t want to cancel the show, but he wanted to raise concern about shows in the future getting worse if the council could never object to material.
“What if the Reilly (Arts Theater) wanted to have a live-sex show?” Curran asked. “Would that be permissible? The mayor is shaking his head no, but legally, apparently, if they wanted to have it, that would be considered freedom of speech.”
Mekaella Lord is a producer and performer for one of the burlesque shows and said she would give tickets to all council members to prove the show wasn’t that bad. She also warned the council that cancelling the show would have a cost.
“If you cancel these shows or future productions upon this man’s request, for my show alone, there are performer cancellation fees, inconvenience fees of the crew booked, pre-sale tickets to be reimbursed, wasted advertising costs, venue rental and more to be considered,” Lord said. “So who will be reimbursing me for these costs, Mr. Dinkins or the city?”
After the public spoke, the council decided that it wasn’t ready to suspend the shows but there was a need to look over the leases with Reilly Arts Center and the Marion Theater to be protected from something like a live-sex show.
“At this time,” council president James Hilty Sr. said, “I think we must allow the show to go on.”