Bless the protesters and pass the popcorn.
Tonight's opening of "Rent" at Lake City Playhouse will feature a cast of passionate characters. Most of them will be on stage, but a few will be standing outside, perhaps with signs condemning the play, the performers and maybe the audience, too.
This is America, thank goodness. In this land of the free and home of the brave - those brave enough to perform a controversial, critically acclaimed work of art and those brave enough to make a symbolic statement in a small sea of theater-goers who likely disagree with them - there's plenty of room for dissenting opinions, so long as everybody obeys the law.
Just as it is the right of Playhouse decision-makers to put on this sold-out production, so, too, is it the right of critics to say it does not meet their moral standards. The gray area is this: When is protest a legitimate disagreement, and when does it constitute outright bigotry?
That bad "b" word has been wielded repeatedly in advance of "Rent" coming to town. What's a bigot anyway?
According to Merriam-Webster, a bigot is "a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance."
Few words are more damning than "bigot," and we won't ascribe the term to members of the community we don't know. However, we do wonder what spurs some people to try to impose their will on others who are not like-minded, rather than simply decline to support or participate in something they disagree with.
With literature, the performing and the fine arts, we pay no heed to those who tell us what we should or should not be able to consume. We're eager to watch "Rent" and judge it for ourselves.