Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins was named among 23 winners of the 2016 grants from the MacArthur Foundation—the MacArthur “Genius Grants.”
The 2016 class of MacArthur Fellows, an honor awarded to top achievers in a variety of fields, also includes theatre artist and educator Anne Basting, composer Julia Wolfe, poet Claudia Rankine and cultural historian Josh Kun.
In a statement MacArthur president Julia Stasch said, “While our communities, our nation, and our world face both historic and emerging challenges, these 23 extraordinary individuals give us ample reason for hope. They are breaking new ground in areas of public concern, in the arts, and in the sciences, often in unexpected ways. Their creativity, dedication, and impact inspire us all.”
The fellowship, which comes with a stipend of $625,000 paid in quarterly installments over five years, awards unrestricted fellowships to individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits as well as a capacity for self-direction.
Jacobs-Jenkins, according to the MacArthur Foundation, is a “playwright drawing from a range of contemporary and historical theatrical genres to engage frankly with complicated issues around identity, family, class, and race. Many of Jacobs-Jenkins’s plays use a historical lens to satirize and comment on modern culture, particularly the ways in which race and class are negotiated in both private and public settings. Although the provocation of his audience is purposeful, Jacobs-Jenkins’s creation of unsettling, shocking, often confrontational moments is not gratuitous; these elements are of a piece with the world he has established on stage and in the service of the story he is telling.”
Jacobs-Jenkins' plays include An Octoroon, an imaginative recreation of a 19th-century melodrama about a doomed love affair; Neighbors, about a family of minstrel performers portrayed by black actors in blackface; and Appropriate, in which siblings discover their father’s association with the Ku Klux Klan. His new play Everybody will premiere at the Signature Theatre in January 2017.
Last year's honorees included Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner Lin-Manuel Miranda.
For more information on the MacArthur Fellowship Program and all the 2016 Fellows, visit macfound.org/programs/fellows/.