A recent column in this newspaper raised objections to a National Endowment for the Arts grant to develop a play at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego.
Considering the fact that the play has yet to be written, the complaints seem to be based on insufficient information or sheer conjecture. We'd like to set the record straight. The proposed play centers on a fictional character, Danny Ramirez, and a "culture obsessed with money, power, fame, wealth, and unattainable desires." Ramirez's life loosely parallels that of serial killer Andrew Cunanan and is an artistic interpretation of true crime and its tragic consequences. Other artistic works in this long tradition include Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and Macbeth, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, and Capote's In Cold Blood. The NEA believes, and the literary tradition demonstrates, that meaningful works of art can address crime, evil, and violence.
This position is neither extreme nor elitist. It represents mainstream American standards of artistic expression. When Academy Award-winning films such as The Godfather or Emmy Award-winning TV shows such as Law and Order and CSI investigate the nature of the criminal mind, are we to deny this same liberty to our serious playwrights?
The creative team at La Jolla have among them several Tony and Obie Awards and credits that include the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway hit, Rent, and the six-time Tony Award winning Thoroughly Modern Millie. They have a record of critically acclaimed accomplishments that warrants our faith in their artistic ability.
Felicia K. Knight Director of Communications National Endowment for the Arts