NEA delays funding decision on new Tony Kushner play
The New York Times reports that the National Endowment of the Arts has delayed making a decision about funding two arts organizations that are sponsoring potentially politically sensitive works. One of them, Berkeley Rep, is hosting a production of Homebody/Kabul, the latest play by gay author Tony Kushner (Angels in America), which is opening off-Broadway in a separate staging in December. While Angels in America generated protest in some regions for its criticism of Reagan-era AIDS policy and explicit discussion of gay sex, Homebody/Kabul--about a British woman who disappears in Taliban-era Afghanistan, which Kushner wrote well before September 11--seems a less likely target for controversy. "It's a great play on a topical issue, and we at this point have no grounds to believe that our application [for $100,000] would not be approved," said Susan Medak, managing director of Berkeley Rep. The grant applications have been put on hold by acting chairman Robert S. Martin, with the final decision being left up to incoming chairman Michael Hammond, whose nomination was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions last week.
In a move leading some to fear that the NEA is returning to its Reagan-Bush era policies of shunning gay art, former NEA chairman William Ivey rejected a grant application by out director Arthur Dong (Coming Out Under Fire) for Dong's latest film, Family Fundamentals, about three families with adult gay children. While the application was recommended by the NEA's media arts panel, Ivey's move kept it from even being considered by the National Council on the Arts, which would have in turn brought it to the NEA chair. Family Fundamentals will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January.