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Children’s Theater Pulls Interracial Kiss; Black Actor Ignores Decision

September 17, 1993

DALLAS (AP) _ A wedding without a kiss? The director of a children’s theater ordered a kiss excised from a wedding scene after a businessman complained because the actor was black and the actress was white.

The actor went ahead Thursday and kissed his ″bride″ on the cheek anyway, and the theater director reversed her decision after a flood of complaints.

Scheles Rhynes said he was not punished for defying the decision of Dallas Children’s Theater Executive Director Robyn Flatt, who had ordered the kiss removed from the production of ″Ramona Quimby.″

At a nonpublic performance for schoolchildren Thursday, he took Kristina Fail’s face in his hands and gave her a kiss on the cheek during the wedding scene.

″The fact that they got married needed some sort of affirmation,″ Rhynes said. ″I don’t think a handshake could be used.″ Earlier, actress Fail had said she was ″just appalled″ at the order not to kiss during the scene.

Later Thursday, Ms. Flatt, who had made the decision to remove the kiss, reinstated it, saying the theater program had received 100 or more calls.

″My reason for changing one small portion of the show was to defuse a situation that was taking the focus off the theme of the play,″ she said. ″In fact, the opposite happened, and I feel I made the wrong call.″

Investment banker Charles V. Lemmon had threatened to picket the theater over the kiss and demanded that the roles be recast. He had said he objected to the interracial kiss becase ″I think there is an obligation to inform parents that something controversial is going on before they buy tickets.″

In a letter faxed to news organizations Thursday, after the kiss was ordered removed from the scene, Lemmon said he was canceling his plans to picket. But that was before Rhynes went ahead and kissed Fail anyway and Ms. Flatt reversed her decision. Lemmon did not return phone calls to The Associated Press on Thursday night.

Minority leaders said they were distressed by the situation. Jim Alexander of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce had said the group’s board was offering the theater a $500 contribution to reinstate the kiss.

Only one audience member beside Lemmon had complained about the kiss, Ms. Flatt said.

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