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In funding theatrical productions aimed at increasing acceptance of transgender people, the National Endowment for the Arts runs the risk of reigniting a long-dormant debate over federal spending on controversial arts projects that in the past prompted calls in Congress for the defunding of the NEA.
Critics, however, say the federal government shouldn’t be in the business of “promotion of a controversial ideology.”
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“The NEA is far out there on the [left side] of the ideological spectrum, and it is using federal dollars to support its main agenda,” said Emilie Kao, director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.
Among the $3,381,375 the NEA awarded to Massachusetts in its Spring 2017 grants announcement, $15,000 was given to the Boston-based Theater Offensive for its production of “They, Them, Theirs: Showcasing Trans Lives.”
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The NEA said that the grant would be used “to support the development, production, and tour” of the show, as well as “a post-show analysis about the topics raised through forum theater techniques, discussions, and workshops.”
Once production began, the show’s name was changed to “The Heart of the Matter.” It focuses on the lives and experiences of transgender and “queer” youths and adults of color through narratives set in both the past and the present.
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“[‘The Heart of the Matter’] utilizes immersive, participatory performance strategy to challenge theatrical conventions and confront audiences with adult, white, middle-class culpability in the oppressive systems LGBTQ youth face,” Matt Gelman, associate managing director of the Theater Offensive, said in a press release.
In December, the piece was performed for the first time by the Theater Offensive’s troupe, the True Colors Creative Action Crew. True Colors, made up of LGBTQ actors and their straight allies ages 18 to 29, in November 2016 became the first such group to receive a National...
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