Local theater challenges Idaho law

Local art theater challenges Idaho law.

BOISE - An art theater in Boise is challenging a state statute censoring what some call artistic expression.

As it stands now, there's an Idaho law which prohibits certain acts or displays that are considered sexually explicit while serving alcohol.

Some of these acts are defined as art by a local theater, and they're fighting back.

"I was super shocked, super scared, I threw up. I mean this is my life, my business," said co-owner of the Visual Arts Collective Samuel Stimpert.

Last May, Stimper paid a fine and was threatened to have his liquor license revoked by Idaho State Police.

"Burlesque is definitely art. It's a theatrical art form and it's changed the way women are reviewed on stage," Stimper added.

During the burlesque show in question, a portion of the female breast was exposed that is deemed inappropriate while serving alcohol under Idaho law.

"The Legislature originally intended to encourage public morality and prevent bars from being places of depravity," said former Idaho Attorney General David Leroy. "There is nothing wrong with the objective with the Legislature, the question has become in today's society whether these devices or tools are sustainable in a society that reveres free speech and free expression."

Stimpert and the rest of the Visual Arts Collective are fighting back by filing a lawsuit. Stimpert added that if he keeps having to censor his shows, like he has been doing since the warning back in May, it will severely impact business.

"These are Tony Award-winning plays," Stimpert said.

Because Visual Arts Collective holds a liquor license, the theater is subject to additional regulations.  A similar conflict arose last year after a local movie theater screened the popular movie "50 Shades of Grey." The conflict resulted in changing the way films are treated under the law. Stimpert is hoping for a similar outcome.

"I hope that they strike down the law in its entirety or at least define it in a way that isn't impossible to enforce," Stimpert said.

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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