James O'Keefe Does 'Oklahoma!,' And Oh Boy, It Is Not Okay

Media/Entertainment

I don't know when it happened exactly, but at some point in recent history, James O'Keefe decided he was fabulously talented at more than just making terrible undercover videos meant to "expose" various liberal and left wing organizations and getting permanently banned from Twitter. Specifically, he decided he should sing. And dance. Like, a lot.

He even released an unbelievably cringey music video earlier this year.

This venture is not terribly surprising. There comes a point in the career of pretty much anyone who is famous for stupid reasons wherein they decide that the obvious next step is to come out with a fragrance, release a heavily autotuned single, or play Roxie Hart in the Broadway production of Chicago. Thankfully, O'Keefe has not chosen to go with the first option, because I don't think any of us want to know what he smells like.


However, with the assistance of (allegedly) notoriously abusive director/Florida congressional hopeful Brian Clowdus, he is making the foray into musical theater that no one ever asked for.

On Twitter this week, Clowdus shared a video of the rehearsal for the production of Oklahoma! he is directing and O'Keefe is starring in as Curly, gushing: "For a while I thought I would never create again, but I kept going & refused to let the woke mob steal what I do best: create art. I'm now officially back in the rehearsal room giving fellow canceled artists jobs & with James O'Keefe as my leading man nonetheless. It's thrilling!"

Here, take in the inadvertent Christopher Guest of it all:

Yeah, I don't know how familiar you are with Oklahoma!, but that is ... not good. I do not know what the hell is going on with that choreography. Though I do really like the part at the end where none of them can figure out when to punch their fists up into the air. That is just great. A plus, no notes.

I do, however, find it interesting that they did not include Curly's solo on this song. Surely they would have wanted to highlight O'Keefe's vocal talents, no?

Odds are you are probably wondering who the hell Brian Clowdus even is or why the "woke mob" is after him. Is it because he did a production of a golden age musical that wasn't entirely politically correct by today's standards and then a bunch of very powerful Twitter users made it so he could never work again? Is it because he voted for Donald Trump? No, it is actually because he got pushed out of the theater company he founded, the Serenbe Playhouse in Georgia, on account of the fact that he was an asshole who didn't care if people got physically hurt during his productions or if things were unsafe.

Tara Moses, who worked with Clowdus on his production of The True Story of Pocahontas, reported that not only did Clowdus want the "true story" to be a very sexy and happy story (which it categorically was not), it was also verboten to discuss safety concerns.

Via American Theater:

She reported that during rehearsals, she had several calls with Clowdus, who told her he wanted a "happy" version of Pocahontas's life, sent notes about making the title character "sexier," and insisted on adding upbeat songs for a more Disney-esque version. Moses also noticed what appeared to be several OSHA violations, but when she expressed concerns, she said a production manager threatened her with violence in a production meeting. "It was entirely clear from the entire staff of Serenbe that they care more about spectacle than safety," said Moses.

In another instance, he wanted the actors in his production of a play about the Titanic to jump from the scaffolding 40 feet into a dirty, trash-filled lake only 12 feet deep. It did not end well, Serenbe's technical directer Spencer Estes explained.

Clowdus, Estes said, also did not want to employ onsite EMTs, so the tech staff had to get some of the cast certified as lifeguards. But there was a snag here too, Estes said: Clowdus refused to let some of the people Estes suggested be certified as lifeguards because they did not fit the "Baywatch body type" Clowdus demanded.

Like Moses, Estes reported that he and his tech staff aired their concerns to various managers, but did not have the communication channels or the authority to go over Clowdus's head to bring them to the Institute.

Estes's fears about safety were apparently justified: The run of Titanic led actor Robert Wayne to spend nine days in the hospital. After spending some time in the bacteria-filled pond that housed the production, the actor's leg—already bitten by a mosquito—started to swell, and eventually his quadricep tendon burst. He was unable to work for six months.

Clearly, Clowdus is under the impression that only super woke PC types don't want to get leg infections in dirty ponds. It is possible this is true. After all, a lot of the anti-woke types are pretty okay about getting COVID-19. Still, I tend to think that this sort of thing would be an unpleasant experience for most people. It almost seems like he was not pushed out of theater because he was not woke enough, but because he was an asshole who put people's lives in danger.

That being said, there are some bright sides here. For one, it's definitely better that James O'Keefe is doing bad community theater than almost literally anything else he has attempted to do with his life. I think he has found his calling. For another, I think we can fairly assume that all of the people in this cast would be totally fine with getting a bacterial infection in their leg and being treated like shit by a fucking twerp wearing a t-shirt that says "CREATOR" on it, because they are not even woke enough to notice that kind of thing anyway.

And, for another, at least they're not fucking with a good musical. They should do all the Oklahoma! and Starlight Express they want, and in fact I look forward to the Clowdus/O'Keefe revival of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.

OPEN THREAD!

[American Theater]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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