It's been almost three years since Steve Cosson and his New York-based part-theater, part-documentary troupe the Civilians finished a cumulative 10 weeks in Colorado Springs creating This Beautiful City. The New York Times would eventually call the show "engaging, inquisitive and evenhanded," but even since then it's gone through some refining. Now, following tour stops in Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., Cosson and company are headed back to the genesis point.
Originally staged and produced in conjunction with Colorado College in February 2007 and titled Save This City, the show offers an unbiased snapshot of Colorado Springs and its relationship with evangelical Christianity during the time of Ted Haggard's ousting from New Life Church. With worship-service-ready musical numbers by Civilians composer Michael Friedman and interviews-turned-dialogue with prayer warriors, resentful atheists and transgendered Christians, This Beautiful City hits the local note dead on.
With such a diverse assemblage, it's a foregone conclusion that audience reactions will be mixed.
"The reactions really are pretty wide-spectrum," says Cosson, the 41-year-old co-writer and director, who adds, "I think I could characterize the typical reaction as overwhelmed. But then as the show progresses ... most people find themselves surprised by it and will say that their preconceptions about what evangelicals would be like are challenged."
Cosson adds that in post-show discussions, he's found that many Christians saw the show as having a liberal slant, while "audience members with more antagonistic attitudes towards religious groups" felt that the show didn't go far enough in exposing intolerance and hypocrisy.
"And then there's a large constituency in the middle that finds the show fair and truthful," Cosson says. "We [tried] to get different stories into the same play that would bring the questions in-play to the surface, instead of making those questions as difficult as possible to answer."
Reactions aside, Cosson says he's just excited to be coming back to Colorado Springs: "It's going to be a real pleasure for us to do a show where the audience actually knows what we're talking about and gets those references."