Taxpayers Billed for Zombie Macbeth, Plays About 'Privilege'

$595,000 worth of art on drag queens, gay choruses, cowboy poetry

Stock photo of a man wearing cowboy hat
Stock photo of a man wearing cowboy hat / AP
December 22, 2016

The National Endowment for the Arts released its latest round of grants, with new taxpayer-funded art such as Macbeth with zombies, cowboy poetry, a play about privilege, and a traveling gay men's chorus.

The new art projects touch on prominent liberal concerns such as gun control, climate change, and gender identity issues.

The drag queen "Fauxnique" is back, receiving part of a $30,000 grant in San Francisco. Monique Jenkinson, a "feminist, postmodern, improvisational dance" artist whose drag queen alter ego is "Fauxnique," received funding last year for a performance titled "Gender in Transition."

This year's grant will support the "world premiere of Monique Jenkinson's 'Delicate Material,' which questions how society views gender and misogyny."

"Fauxnique made herstory as the first cissexual female to win a major drag pageant," according to Jenkinson's website.

Other projects on gender identity and sex include the play Trans Scripts about six men who are now women, costing $50,000.

The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles received $20,000 to bring its anti-bullying "it gets better" tour to Omaha, Neb.

"The stage show brings to life real-life stories from lesbian, gay, transgender, genderqueer and straight allies from across America and infuses them with dynamic musical numbers," according to the group's website.

Songs performed by the chorus include "True Colors," and "Rumor Has It." The group encourages audiences to "come see our big brass bells!" during its "Holiday Spectacular."

A play about a Marine returning home from war to a sister who is now transgender and goes by the name "Max" will cost $40,000.

The International LGBT Film Festival will cost $10,000, and an exhibition at the University of Southern California for "Queer Networks in Chicano L.A." will cost $25,000.

A concert exploring "issues of gender, sexuality, and identity" in Chicago will cost $10,000, and another $10,000 will be spent on a concert for LGBTQ youth in Minnesota. Community performances on the "lack of credibility for women" in San Francisco will cost $10,000.

Residencies totaling $20,000 will be awarded in Chicago to South Side artists who "encourage open, ongoing, and active community participation in collective change" and "deepen understanding of race, class, gender, and sexual identities."

"The arts are for all of us, and by supporting these projects, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing more opportunities for the public to engage with the arts," said NEA Chairman Jane Chu when announcing the grants. "Whether in a theater, a town square, a museum, or a hospital, the arts are everywhere and make our lives richer."

Numerous art projects focus on climate change. The Anchorage Museum in Alaska received $25,000 for "environmental graphics" in public squares for artists to "share their vision of the environmental and cultural changes they witness due to climate change."

The Exploratorium museum in San Francisco received $100,000 for environmental engineers and artists to "investigate how artistic approaches can further community engagement and learning" about climate change.

An environmental film festival in Washington, D.C., received $20,000. This year the festival featured the documentary How to Let Go of the World by Josh Fox. The film calls climate change the "greatest threat our world has ever known."

A project costing $15,000 will provide residencies to "environmentally themed artists" in New Orleans to "examine how communities and cultures are adapting to climate change."

A zombie version of Macbeth in Los Angeles will cost $10,000, while The Freshest Snow Whyte, a hip-hop version of the fairy tale, will cost $10,000.

A dance to "promote world healing" by Tibetan Monks will be live-streamed and made into a time-lapse video for $10,000.

Part of a $10,000 grant will support a "cowboy poet" in Nevada, a favorite of outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.).

An anti-corporation play titled A Tale of Autumn will cost $10,000. The play is about a company whose "seemingly benign tactics destroy a people over time."

"A modern-day fable explores themes of political power, notions of cultural hierarchy, and the power of corporate personhood in present day capitalism," states the grant, which was awarded to the Crowded Fire Theater Company in San Francisco.

An opera to raise awareness about gun violence will cost $20,000. The University of California at San Diego will develop the opera about Sarah Winchester, the heir to the Winchester rifle company.

"The story follows the eccentric widow who is self-imprisoned in her home and seeks refuge from the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles," the grant states. "The work will view Sarah's life as a metaphor and a means to explore society's complex relationship with guns, and will incorporate social awareness through satellite events that will result in symposiums and panel discussions about guns and violence in America."

After photo spreads in Vanity Fair and a Hollywood movie, taxpayers also will cover the cost for a play about Valerie Plame. The play about the decade-old Bush administration scandal will cost $45,000.

"Inspired by true events, the play is told through the eyes of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA operative searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq whose cover is blown," the grant states. "A political thriller that explores the cost of deception and the consequences of speaking the truth, the play considers our country's simultaneous needs for covert operations as well as transparency about our political motives."

A play in New York about illegal immigrants called The Deportation Chronicles will be awarded $10,000. The play will "portray individuals who have suffered at the hands of deportation and how it has affected their families and society as a whole."

The goal of the play is to "inspire audiences to question what is happening and recognize the deeper inherited cultural attitudes in our society today."

A puppet show about refugees living in Vermont will cost $15,000.

Part of a $30,000 grant went to Doggie Hamlet, while a play about going back in time to kill Christopher Columbus cost $10,000.

A play about "privilege and class" in America will cost taxpayers $30,000.

The play "relates the events of one explosive Halloween night when two couples find themselves engaged in incendiary conversations about the differences between haves and have-nots in America, and whether it is possible to heal from inherited trauma and transcend the financial situation into which one is born," the grant states.

The above-listed projects total $595,000.

Published under: Government Spending