The National Endowment for the Arts is spending $20,000 for a musical about a lesbian illegal immigrant who is in love with an ICE agent.
The San Francisco Mime Troupe, a self-described socialist theater group, received the funding in the first round of grants awarded under the Trump administration. Jane Chu is the current chairman of the NEA, who was appointed by former president Barack Obama in 2014.
The musical is entitled "WALLS!" and stars a "bad hombre," mocking a phrase used by Trump to describe criminal illegal aliens during a presidential debate.
The musical does not only address issues of immigration, but a host of other liberal and political topics.
"Using the Mime Troupe's signature style of broad, physical theater, the work will explore immigration, gun violence, the opioid epidemic, depression, the public education system, and racial tensions, and how they relate to societal health," according to the grant for the project. "Portions of the work will be developed through playmaking workshops in California's Central Valley with low-income youth, inmates, and migrant workers."
"WALLS asks the question: How can a nation of immigrants declare war on immigration? The answer: FEAR!" the San Francisco Mime Troupe states on their website.
The lead character is Zaniyah, a criminal illegal alien and lesbian struggling with mental health issues.
"Zaniyah is a criminal, an illegal, a ‘bad hombre,'" the theater group said. "What part of herself will this American give up to pass as ‘American?' Will she? Can she? Should she? Can someone leave part of themselves behind without losing their mind? And is it better or worse that she crossed the border to find Agent L. Mary Jones – the woman she loves?"
A trailer for the play features actors yelling "Fox News!" and discussing how immigration is an "issue" in the current "political climate."
The score includes the song "On My Watch," which features ICE agent Mary Jones feeling guilty about her job to enforce immigration laws, which the character describes as "keeping these migrant workers on the run."
The San Francisco Mime Troupe received previous grants under the Obama administration for political plays.
The group received a $20,000 grant last year for the musical "Freedomland," which follows the story of a grandson of an ex-Black Panther who returns from fighting in Afghanistan to find "another war zone at home" where "young Black men … are in the crosshairs!"
"Unarmed black men being killed by the cops and they can just get away with it," said one actor when describing the play.
The San Francisco Mime Troupe put on Black Panther puppet shows in the 1960s, and performed the musical 1600 Transylvania Avenue, which decries "corporate bloodsuckers" and capitalism as the "personification of greed."
The theater group uses the logo of a red star, to show solidarity with socialists and communists. The group insists it does not support totalitarian governments, even though it identifies with symbols used by China and the Soviet Union.
"We uphold socialist ideals," the group states on its website. "The red star and red flags have a long history of representing people's struggle, socialism, and communism. This should not be read as support for totalitarian regimes. Just the opposite."
The San Francisco Mime Troupe continues: "The dictionary defines ‘red flag' as follows: A warning signal; Something that demands attention or provokes an irritated reaction; [and] The emblem of socialist revolution."
The group also quotes from Wikipedia, which explains the red flag has represented left-wing political movements since the French Revolution, and has been used by authoritarian communist regimes, including, China, Vietnam, and the Soviet Union.
The theater group complains that it used to receive more taxpayer-funding, but "right-wing attacks" against the NEA in the 1990s now only allows the group to tour a "few weeks a year."
"Unsubsidized until the late l970's [sic], the Troupe enjoyed a few stable years in the l980's [sic] with grants from the city, the state of California, and the National Endowment for the Arts," the group said. "In the 1990's, the rightwing attack on the NEA cost the SFMT most of its federal support and also decimated the national touring network, its other main source of income. The company now tours only a few weeks a year, and spends winters conducting theater workshops for at-risk teens."
The San Francisco Mime Troupe has received $461,000 from the NEA since 1998.
Funding includes a total of $40,000 for "Freedomland," as well as $20,000 in 2012 for the play "The Last Election," about a "group of corporate power brokers on Capitol Hill that plots to postpone an election to make an assault on democracy."
The group also received $50,000 for the anti-capitalist "2012 – The Musical," and $20,000 for "Too Big to Fail" in 2009.
President Donald Trump has proposed cutting the NEA, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities, entirely. However, both agencies received a $2 million increase from Congress in the budget agreement passed earlier this year.
Chu has served as NEA chairman since her appointment by Obama in February 2014. She has overseen more than $240 million in grants.