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Threatened by Trump: BWW Looks at the Many Ways The National Endowment for the Arts Benefits Theater

Threatened by Trump: BWW Looks at the Many Ways The National Endowment for the Arts Benefits TheaterAs BWW reported yesterday, the Trump Administration plans to reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over the next 10 years. Along with significant cuts to the departments of Commerce and Energy, Transportation, Justice and State, the administration also plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities entirely.

BWW's article from yesterday received an overwhelming response from our readers, prompting many to take to our Facebook page to express their anger and sadness over the possibility that the NEA may be eliminated. While the agency obviously plays a significant role in the arts, BWW took a closer look at its extensive function in promoting theater in America.

The National Endowment for the Arts was created by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. It's purpose is to promote and strengthen the creative capacity of communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation.

In May, the TONY AWARDS Administration Committee announced that it had selected the NEA as the recipient of the 2016 Special Tony Award for its "unwavering commitment in paving the road between Broadway and cities throughout the U.S" Over the past 50 years, since its inception, the agency has funded 18 Tony Award-winning plays and 15 Tony award-winning musicals, along with offering vital support to hundreds of theatre professionals. This was not the first time the agency was recognized by the Tonys. In 1995 it was awarded Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre.

For over five decades, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded more than $331 million in grants and millions more through national initiatives, all to support theater creation, performing, touring, and education. The agency is also the largest funder of non-profit theater and musical theater in the country.

Among the many ways the NEA supports theater are:

The NEA was directly responsible for the national infrastructure of American non-profit theater, helping launch organizations such as the Theatre Development Fund in 1968, and strengthening networks in part through funding of Theatre Communications Group.

The NEA makes a significant investment in the creation of new plays and musicals. Between 1996 and 2015, the NEA awarded more than $13 million to develop new plays.
NEA-supported plays and musicals have transferred to Broadway, and toured throughout the United States, extending the life and commercial success of new work and connecting with wider audiences. Since 1966, NEA-supported plays and musicals have received 100 nominations and 33 wins for the Tony Award for Best Play and Best Musical, including Chicago's Steppenwolf for August: Osage County, New York City's Public Theater for Fun Home, and Washington, DC's Arena Stage for Next to Normal.

NEA funding supports playwrights, directors, designers, actors, and composers, as well as lyricists-in-training programs through workshops, readings, and festivals that challenge and advance their craft.

The NEA offers grants in the categories of Grants for Arts Projects, National Initiatives, and Partnership Agreements. Grants for Arts Projects support exemplary projects in the discipline categories of artist communities, arts education, dance, design, folk and traditional arts, literature, local arts agencies, media arts, museums, music, musical theater, opera, presenting (including multidisciplinary art forms), theater, and visual arts. The NEA also grants individual fellowships in literature to creative writers and translators of exceptional talent in the areas of prose and poetry.

Thursday's news that the Trump Administration hopes to eliminate the NEA is unfortunately not the first time the agency has come under attack. Congressional funding for the agency has always been in a state of constant flux, both from the current administration and from objections by outside sources, such as conservative groups who criticize the agency for using tax dollars to fund what they consider to be highly controversial forms of art. It is quite common for incoming presidents to announce their intentions to eliminate various programs and agencies upon taking office. Fortunately for fans of the arts, the president's budget request is only the first step in a long and complex approval process that includes consent from both the House of Representatives and the Senate. However it must be noted that with a Republican majority now in Congress, it remains uncertain how much they will push back against Trump's request.


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From This Author Caryn Robbins