In its 58th year, the San Francisco Mime Troupe is caught in what I would describe as an extended aesthetic rut. The company delivers a variation of the same show year after year: a kind of longform Saturday Night Live sketch with a more robust leftish agenda.
The Troupe’s shows are more a summer ritual gathering than a place for theater. The productions go up and down in quality. Thanks to Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe’s direction, this year’s offering, Walls, zips along for the first half-hour or so. But the experience ultimately feels like most other Mime Troupe productions -- you’ve seen and felt it all before.
So when Breitbart News, basically scavenging the work of the Free Beacon, flipped out last week over the Mime Troupe receiving a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) (“Trump NEA grants $20k for lesbian illegal alien musical") the online publication got at some uncomfortable truths. Perhaps the most pressing question the article raised is, what do we expect from political art, and art that is partially funded by the government?
Both the Breitbart article and the one it filches from in the Free Beacon hew to the facts, for the most part. They quote from the show's press release, have a clear sense of what Walls is about, and demonstrate an understanding of the Mime Troupe’s mission. What these publications object to is the notion of support, primarily financial, as well as the simple act of giving credence to anything they deem un-American.
In a basic way, the mere existence of the Mime Troupe is a threat, a counter-vision that is so destabilizing that a $20,000 grant is treated as a bankrupting of the entire economy, to say nothing of the nation's soul. The Breitbart headline -- “lesbian illegal alien musical" -- says it all. But what’s damning about it all is how the Mime Troupe takes such potent, promising material and churns it into indifferent mush.