South Coast Repertory will accept a $112,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts while protesting the NEA's disputed anti-obscenity certification by joining theater artists and groups across the country who intend to file court briefs in a lawsuit against the federal arts agency, SCR officials said Wednesday.
"We find (the certification) onerous, certainly," said David Emmes, SCR's producing-artistic director. "But we feel we are entitled to that money."
Nationwide, several arts institutions have rejected their 1990 NEA grants rather than comply with a requirement that they not produce or present artwork that the NEA may consider obscene. Critics claim the certification restricts freedom of expression.
Trustees of the Tony award-winning troupe voted unanimously to accept the NEA grant but also to send a protest letter stating that SCR will join other theater professionals in submitting friend-of-the-court briefs to accompany a lawsuit to be filed Monday by the New York-based Theatre Communications Group, a national service organization, Emmes said.
Monday's suit would support two other lawsuits against the NEA filed by the New School for Social Research in New York City and choreographer Bella Lewitzky, head of the Los Angeles modern dance company that bears her name. Both claim that the NEA's anti-obscenity pledge violates the First and Fifth amendments of the Constitution.
SCR's protest letter states that its trustees "will challenge with all necessary means any effort to censor or restrict SCR's right to free and unfettered artistic expression."
SCR's grant is the second-largest 1990 NEA subsidy awarded an Orange County organization to date. Laguna Art Museum has been awarded a $150,000 grant in addition to five others totaling $72,500 (see story, F1).
Five other Orange County arts groups have accepted 1990 NEA grants. Several have written to register their disapproval of the anti-obscenity pledge.
The Art Institute of Southern California in Laguna Beach is so far the only county group to reject its grant. The Newport Harbor Art Museum, which has three pending NEA grants totaling $100,000, has sued the NEA, seeking a court order barring the NEA from using the anti-obscenity certification.
Last year, the Tony award-winning SCR received $95,000 from the NEA.