Where Angels Fear to Tread

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This spring David Wiley, Kilgore College development director, will supervise a fund-raising effort to begin a permanent endowment for the festival. Holda hopes to raise $5 million so that the festival can be self-sufficient. The plan sounds unrealistic to Caldwell. Raising that much money will be difficult, he believes, particularly given the recent controversy.

But Holda remains optimistic -- maybe a little foolishly, he says -- and believes the festival will remain in Kilgore. Caldwell isn't so sure Kilgore is the best place for it. "I think central Texas, with its larger population and less conservative attitudes, may be a more nourishing environment," he says.

If Caldwell could leave Kilgore College and start fresh, he would. "Under these current circumstances, I would definitely go. The guaranteed future of the festival is elsewhere," he said.

For the first time in Caldwell's career, the 57-year-old theater veteran feels hemmed in. It's not just about politicians and preachers indirectly influencing artistic decisions. It's also about Kilgore College's new notification policy, which has the potential to screen student productions. This kind of narrow, bureaucratic thinking runs counter to his personal philosophies on art and teaching at a college level. "You can't expose students to worlds they're not familiar with and restrict yourself to reflect the community you're in," he says.

The dustup in Kilgore has steeled Caldwell's resolve, though. "This controversy, more than anything in my life, has proven the power of theater and reminded me of its real purpose, the reason it exists. It's all so clear to me at this time in my life. I have to [leave if necessary] and go do what my calling is."

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Cynthia Greenwood