Eureka Springs, Arkansas is known for two things: being a southern haven for LGBTQ+ people and their allies, and the long-running The Great Passion Play, replete with a giant statue of Jesus and a walkable reproduction of the streets of Jerusalem. The Gospel of Eureka invites viewers to consider the parallel universes of the evangelical Christian production and a popular local drag show that is irreverent and raucous. It takes a personal, and often comical, look at the use of performance, political action, and partnership to negotiate differences between religion and faith. Stereotypes fall away as we meet some of Eureka’s citizens, each involved in a quest for love, spiritual devotion, and civil rights.
Key Film Participants
Lee Keating (1954–2017) and Walter Burrell (b. 1960) – co-owners of the bar Eureka Live Underground. Earlier in life, Keating was a professional Latin dancer and hairdresser. The pair have been together since 1986 and married when it became legal. They were the first gay couple married by a Baptist preacher. Both are active in their church, where they established a ministry to care for people with AIDS. Burrell also teaches Sunday school.
Kent Butler – stars as Jesus in the Passion Play, as well as doing much of the behind-the-scenes production work. He also serves in a variety of roles at the venue where the Passion Play is staged, including as the director of marketing and tour guide (in character as David the shepherd).
Randall Christy – CEO of the Eureka Springs Passion Play
Roxie Howard – trans rights activist, married to Earl
Jayme Brandt – religious t-shirt shop owner and father of young children
Ginger Styles – drag performer at Eureka Live Underground
Felicia Blackheart – drag performer at Eureka Live Underground
Charnay Malletti Cassadine – drag performer at Eureka Live Underground
Missy Klien – drag performer at Eureka Live Underground
The Gospel of Eureka will be of special interest to people who want to explore the following topics:
American South/Southern culture
“camp” as performance genre
LGBTQ+ rights and cultures
transgender “bathroom bills”