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Drawer-Dropping Director Is Due in Court

Drawer-Dropping Director Is Due in Court

Published: November 11, 2003

The American composer Philip Glass has also come to Mr. Thomas's defense. The two men created an opera called ''Mattogrosso'' together in 1987, and Mr. Glass, calling Mr. Thomas a director ''who works emotionally and on a very high artistic level,'' condemned the charges against him a grotesque miscarriage of justice.

''This is totally a free-speech issue, surprising in a country that we love for its openness to all kinds of political and social dialogue,'' Mr. Glass said in a telephone interview from New York. ''The act itself was not obscene. What they are objecting to is an artist replying to his critics, and knowing Gerald's work, he would of course choose a theatrical response.''

Mr. Thomas said he was being singled out for harassment by the government of Rio de Janeiro State for political reasons. In the newspaper column that he wrote until recently for a daily here, he repeatedly mocked the former governor, Anthony Garotinho, and his wife, Rosinha Matheus, the current governor, and accused them of administrative irregularities.

But Helena Severo, who is both the artistic director of the Teatro Municipal and the state's secretary of culture and had hired Mr. Thomas for what turned out to be four sold-out performances in August, denied that there was a vendetta against him.

''Gerald's problem is with the Brazilian justice system, not with the Garotinho family, which has nothing to do with this,'' she said.

''I've urged him not to make this worse by making dramatic declarations meant to turn this situation into a public scandal, but he won't listen,'' Ms. Severo continued, exasperation in her voice. ''I admire him as an artist, but as this case progresses, his arguments keep changing. First it was religious bigotry, now it's political intimidation. This thing has already been overblown, and now I don't know where it is going to end.''

The prosecutor who filed the charges, Gisela Brandao, said in a brief telephone interview that even though ''we had the option of shelving the case,'' she chose to forge ahead because Mr. Thomas ''didn't want the relief to which he was entitled,'' referring to the option of admitting guilt and paying a fine of about $400.

''The law is the same for all,'' she maintained when asked if Mr. Thomas was being harassed for political reasons. But when asked why, if that was the case, prosecutors did not also move against Carnival revelers, she said, ''I'm not going to make any comments about the merits of the case'' and referred further inquiries to the press spokesman for the prosecutor's office.

Mr. Thomas, asked about his rejection of the plea bargain, said: ''I do have principles. What kind of example would I be setting for my fellow artists? I don't accept the fact that I committed a crime because I decided to moon the audience in my own theater.''

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