Rock Springs City Council listens, responds to outcry over local drag theater organization

By: 
Trina Dennis Brittain with the Rocket Miner, via the Wyoming News Exchange

ROCK SPRINGS – The integrity and intentions of The Starling Company, a local drag theater organization, were called into question by a Sweetwater County citizen during the Rock Springs City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

Gregory Stocks said that he wasn’t protesting against the gay community or “putting a damper” on the theatrical production, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. 

However, he voiced his concerns regarding age limits to “things children shouldn’t be introduced to.”

“I have no interest in shutting the theater down,” said Stocks. “What I want us to do is get some conservative voices to look at the problems in the United States and take a look at what we’re willing to accept in our community.”

Stocks discovered the existence of a local gentlemen's club, Bareback Saloon, in downtown Rock Springs two weeks ago, which he is not happy about, but he mentioned that patrons have to be 21 years of age to enter.

“I know the people in the LGBTQ community are good people, but we have to be concerned with what’s happening in our communities,” he said.

Councilman Rob Zotti said he believes parents should decide what their children should be exposed to.

Stocks expressed concerns over gender identities. He said that he believes by taking conservative approaches to certain “movements,” it would eliminate negative influences on children.

Stocks associated the LGBTQ community with crime against children, including pedophilia.

Councilman Tim Robinson challenged the resident’s statement by advising him to do some research and “see that there is no direct connection between the LGBTQ community and pedophilia.”

“By making that association, you are muddying in waters quite a bit,” Robinson told Stocks. “There’s a famous country singer coming to the Broadway Theater soon. I can’t stand country music. You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to stay home. If you don’t want to see the drag theater show, you don’t have to.

“I think associating this group with crime is wrong.”

Robinson’s announcement that he will be in drag for the upcoming performance of Rocky Horror Show in October was followed by loud applause and cheers from over 30 supporters in the audience, mostly members of community performing arts groups such as Actors’ Mission, The Horizon Theater and Starling’s cast.

Mayor Tim Kaumo echoed what Stocks had said regarding the theater being owned and operated by the City of Rock Springs.

“It is also a public building that welcomes everyone,” said Kaumo. “We all need to get along and respect each other.”

Before the meeting, Kenny Starling, founder of The Starling Company, said that they’re not angry about the complaint.

“The only thing I feel is sadness for people who will never get to experience the joy we experience – that queer experience,” they said.

Starling explained that queer joy stems from oppression, a time when individuals weren’t able to be themselves.

“Most of it stems from self-love, kindness and love for other individuals who haven’t been able to be themselves,” they shared. “I just feel really sad for this individual who will never get to experience that. I’m sure there are millions of people who won’t get to experience that as well.”

Starling said that cast members are still planning to be on the stage, living their best lives and barely wearing anything at all and being themselves.

“It’s about celebration,” they said.

The South Carolina native pointed out that they’re not in Sweetwater County to harm anyone.

The audition announcement for the upcoming performance stated that anyone under the age of 18 who wished to be involved needed a parent or guardian’s permission.

Starling even invited parents to the auditions, and they’re welcome to attend the rehearsals as well.

“I would never put a child in a compromising situation,” they said.

The advertisement poster indicates that the performance is Rated R. Anyone under 17 will need adult supervision to watch it.

Rock Springs resident Carrie Garcia is the mother of one of the teenage actors in the production.

“I believe my son is able to decide what he wants to take part in,” said Garcia. “Having a variety of shows and cultures is a good thing in our small community.

“People can go watch and support our local theaters or stay away, if it’s not their cup of tea. I, 100%, support Kenny and all the actors in the show,” she said.

Residents of all ages from local performing arts groups and community boards filled the city chambers. Several individuals testified how theater has impacted their lives and what it is like to live in the world today.

Starling said, “I love this community and it’s an honor for me to live here. There will always be individuals who are ignorant. That’s just because they haven’t gotten to know others who are different, and that’s not necessarily their fault.

“My existence is not political. It’s a humanity issue,” Starling added. “Complaints such as this are based on ignorance, fear and just a matter of not knowing. It’s OK to not know, so I’m inviting people to come and learn.”

 

This story was published on Sept. 20, 2022.

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