Former Charismatic church leader Ted Haggard attended a documentary-style play this week that featured, well, him, more or less.
Developed in the summer of 2007, "This Beautiful City" depicts the rise of a small city in Colorado into a national powerhouse of evangelical Christianity and features, among other topics, scandals like those involving Haggard – whose cash-for-sex relationship with a male prostitute became public in 2006 and led to his resignation and removal from all leadership positions.
"It was surreal, watching Ted Haggard watch the show," said Jen Garvey-Blackwell, executive director of New York's Vineyard Theatre, according to Time Out New York.
"I didn't know that it was going to happen," added Stephen Plunkett, who plays Haggard in the show, as well as Haggard's son Marcus. "I wish I had known, actually. But you can't expect people to tell the cast something like that."
According to reports, Haggard and his wife attended the performance at the Vineyard Tuesday night together with filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, who had directed the HBO documentary "The Trials of Ted Haggard," which paints a sympathetic portrait of the disgraced Evangelical. Pelosi, whose mother is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was accompanied by her husband.
During the performance, Haggard reportedly smiled and even laughed at times though the scandal that brought him down provides a bit of a narrative spine for the play. The Civilians, a New York City acting company that constructs much of its work from interviews, spent 10 weeks in Colorado Springs, Colo., before and after the Haggard scandal broke, collecting impressions from both with evangelicals and with those dismayed by their rising influence.
Topics featured in the play's production include the rise of evangelical Christianity and conflicts with church and state, among others.
According to reports, Pelosi had been talking to the Vineyard's executive director ahead of this week's performance but Haggard was still deciding whether or not to attend. When Haggard did show up, the actors were not informed of Haggard's attendance until after the show. The company's nonperformers, however, were aware of his presence and slipped out periodically, checking to see how Haggard would react.
After the performance concluded, Haggard and his party reportedly left quietly and quickly, well before the rush of the crowd.
Garvey-Blackwell, the theater's executive director, said Haggard's decision to attend was a "gutsy" move and one that impressed the staff.
"I think it took a lot of guts for him to come," Garvey-Blackwell told Time Out New York.
Two years after the drugs and sex scandal led to his resignation from the presidency of the National Association of Evangelicals and forced him out of the church he founded, Haggard returned to the public eye in 2009, giving dozens of media interviews since Jan. 9 to promote "The Trials of Ted Haggard," which debuted on HBO late January and aired throughout the month of February.
Haggard currently works as an insurance salesman and lives in Colorado Springs with his wife of 30 years and two of his five children. The Haggard's remaining three children are over the age of 18.