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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Purple Predators

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Centuries have passed since the Roman Catholic Church held inordinate power over the hearts and minds of its flock. Nevertheless, the idea of the church being answerable only to itself seems too deeply entrenched to be fully relinquished even in this century-a circumstance brought to bear by evidence of cover-ups by many bishops of sexual misdeeds by priests. Their predatory actions have captured headlines, formed the grounds for numerous lawsuits and settlements and become the subject of several documentaries and books within the past decade.

However, Wisconsin author Stephen Boehrer has chosen to circumvent the headline hysteria in his new novel. Like his previous works, Boehrer's latest, The Purple Culture, uses his experience as an ex-priest to expose the Catholic Church's culture of concealment. Despite an unabashedly kinky cover-a pair of handcuffs dangling from the peak of a bishop's miter set against a ruffled satin backdrop-Purple Culture resists the temptation to simply recount lurid details and shocking statistics and instead aims to uncover the power structures that enable priests to transgress time and again.

In what's been described as part courtroom thriller and part psychological drama, The Purple Culture revolves around the trial of three bishops accused of relocating Catholic priests to different communities before evidence of their pedophilic activities can fully surface. Boehrer marks the release of his new novel at Barnes & Noble in Brookfield on May 7 at 7 p.m.

Also this week, members of the city's stage community revive one of its vanished institutions. Those still mourning the cruel demise of Milwaukee Shakespeare will be glad to know the next intended production of a season prematurely cut short will be rescued in part May 1-3. The Artists Formerly Known as Milwaukee Shakespeare will present a staged reading of Othello at the Live Artists Have to Eat studio (228 S. First St., Studio 302). The reading, directed by Milwaukee Shakespeare's former artistic director, Paula Suozzi, is free and open to the public, but reservations are encouraged by e-mailing othelloreservations@gmail.com.

On a related note, Milwaukee actor, director and writer Jonathan West will sign copies of his new book, Milwaukee's Live Theater, at the Skylight Bar & Bistro. Using anecdotes and archival photographs, West offers a behind-the-scenes tour of Milwaukee theater companies and the people who powered them. The reading takes place at 7 p.m. on May 5 (call 291-7811 ext. 261 for information), with another appearance at Next Chapter Bookshop (formerly Schwartz in Mequon) on May 18 at 7 p.m.