23 receive ‘genius grants’ from MacArthur Foundation
CHICAGO » A director who has taken opera from the concert hall to the streets of Los Angeles and an organizer who helped put a human face on the plight of young undocumented immigrants are among this year’s MacArthur fellows and recipients of the so-called “genius” grants.
The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation on Wednesday announced the 23 fellows, who each receive $625,000 over five years to spend any way they choose. The recipients work in a variety of fields, from computer science to theater, immunology and photography.
The foundation has awarded the fellowships annually since 1981 to people who show “exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future.” Previous winners have included “Hamilton” playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, and author-journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates. There is no application process. Instead, an anonymous pool of nominators brings potential fellows to the foundation’s attention. Those selected learn they’ve been chosen shortly before the awards are announced.
For opera director and producer Yuval Sharon the news that he had been selected was “an enormous shock and honor.” When the foundation called, he assumed they were seeking a referral for someone else who’d been nominated.
“I’m totally amazed,” said Sharon, 37, the founder and artistic director of The Industry, a Los Angeles-based production company that produces operas in nontraditional spaces and formats. A 2015 production transported audience members and performers to various locations in Los Angeles via limousines, with singers and musicians performing along the way and at each stop.
His next work, an adaptation of the radio program “War of the Worlds” will utilize decommissioned World War II sirens to broadcast the performance occurring inside the theater onto the streets. The sounds of performers stationed outdoors — and likely the traffic and other street noise — will then be transmitted back into the concert hall.