Feds Fund Trans Plays, Cowboy Poetry, 'Social Justice' Theater

New NEA grants totaling $370,000 go to anti-Trump activists, liberal projects

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March 15, 2018

The National Endowment for the Arts is spending over $300,000 on new transgender plays, "social justice" theater, and other liberal projects.

The latest round of grants awarded by the Trump administration last month continues several Obama administration projects, including Smart People, a play set in the Harvard faculty lounge, and additional funding for cowboy poetry.

Two separate grants are supporting the play Sensitive Guys, where female and "gender non-conforming" actors play men who like to sit around and discuss "male privilege."

The play received $10,000 outright for its premiere in Philadelphia and is also among the new "trans theater works" being produced by a $40,000 grant in Minneapolis.

"Will is a freshman at Watson college. Jordan is a senior film major. Tyler is writing a novel for his thesis. They are all members of the Men's Peer Education group," according to a synopsis of the play on the playwright's website.

"At meetings they spend hours unpacking questions like: 'what is male privilege? And what can we do about it?'" the description states. "They love each other and the group."

The "Sensitive Guys" are shattered, however, after a member of the group is accused of sexual assault.

"Could it be that even sensitive guys, guys working on their privilege sometimes turn violent or aggressive?" the playwright asks. "In this play women and gender non-conforming people play men trying to understand the intricacies of masculinity and violence."

The Mixed Blood Theater Company, which received the funding for new trans works, is also performing Sensitive Guys. The theater describes the play as a "social satire" on "complicity" and "what it really takes to face the patriarchy."

Mixed Blood Theater leads the "field in programming and engagement at the crossroads of art and social justice."

The new trans works supported by the grant are part of the theater's "On Our Own Terms" programming, which examines the "intersection of transgender experience and Mixed Blood Theater."

"Three plays offer three complementary prisms to trans theater: one written by a trans playwright with a cast including gender nonconforming actors; one that revolves around a central trans character written by a cisgender Latino playwright; and one by a cisgender playwright with a cast of trans and gender nonconforming actors with a trans-inclusive metaphorical theme," the theater company explains.

Aside from Sensitive Guys, the trans works include No Bull, a play about a girl who self identifies as a bull, and Mermaid Hour, which explores the "gender continuum through the prism of a pre-pubescent transgender biracial girl."

"These NEA-supported projects are good examples of how the arts build stronger and more vibrant communities, improve well-being, prepare our children to succeed, and increase the quality of our lives," said NEA chairman Jane Chu when announcing the new grant recipients. "At the National Endowment for the Arts, we believe that all people should have access to the joy, opportunities, and connections the arts bring."

The NEA funded numerous gender bending projects in the latest round, including $15,000 to Monica Bill Barnes & Company, whose most recent show is Happy Hour, a dance piece starring two women playing business men in drag.

"They're not like regular guys in suits," a spectator of the show observed. "They're better because they're women."

"I'd say go in without any expectations," said another. "Except to have your views of gender totally blown apart."

A $10,000 grant went to the play Boy, which follows a botched circumcision that leads to a male infant being raised as a girl. The Huffington Post praised the play for capturing the "white hot issue of gender identity."

The Global Action Project received $15,000 for "SupaFriends," the group's "social justice media-arts leadership program for TLGBQ (Transgender, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer) youth in New York City."

Another "social justice" theater group, the Matrix Theatre Company in Detroit, received $20,000 for its "Bridging Borders" initiative.

Additional grants include $40,000 for the play "An Ordinary Muslim," which follows the conflict between a Muslim couple living in London, who are "pressurized by their daily encounters with Islamophobia." Duke University received $45,000 for its program "Southern Hospitality: Muslim Arts and Music as Cultural Bridge-Making in the American South."

The NEA also gave to liberal projects and activists, including $25,000 to an artist whose works include "F**k Trump," and $30,000 to the kids theater group founded by the vehemently anti-Trump Rosie O'Donnell. Electric Lit, an online feminist journal that decries white privilege and "heteronormativity," received $15,000.

Other grants include $15,000 to the Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C., $15,000 to the international LGBTQ film festival in San Francisco, and $10,000 to the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, all of which have received funding before.

The NEA is also renewing funding for the play Smart People, which follows a "diverse group of Harvard intellectuals" confronting the "issues of racial bias and stereotyping" on the eve of Barack Obama's election.

The Boston Globe said the play "firmly pushes back against the notion that we're living in a 'post-racial society.'"

The NEA gave $20,000 for a premiere of the play in Chicago.

Former senator Harry Reid's beloved cowboy poetry is again receiving funding from the taxpayers, with $35,000 going to the Western Folklife Center for an "archiving of recordings of early Cowboy Poetry Gatherings and field research."

The Civilians, the Brooklyn theater group that brought you the taxpayer-funded global-warming musical, received $10,000 for a new play about charter schools. An early run painted charter schools as "inexperienced and ineffectual."

The above projects total $370,000 in taxpayer funding.