What a Trump Presidency Means for Theatre

This past November undeniably shook Americans to their core. An historic president election finally concluded to reveal the 45th President of the United States would be Donald Trump. While some celebrated the win, others crumbled as they felt the onset of a world filled with hate and fear. Without a doubt this is one of the most divisive elections to date. People are still trying to grasp what exactly a Trump presidency will entail and mean for our country.  So, we put some thought to what President Trump might mean for the Theatre industry.

Fuel for the Fire

For many artists, this election has provided a fuel for their creative and artistic endeavors. It has made the demand for their voice to be heard just that much greater. As Tony-nominated director Leigh Silverman said to young theatre artists, ““… use your voice. Please use your voice. Refuse to be silenced. Make the work. Turn your rage into action. Find your inspiration. Find your resistance and resilience. Hold it close. Get loud.” With the election of President Trump came something amazing; with it came the transformation of theatre into something stronger than ever before.

“No generation that has ever lived had seen as much history being made as has mine. Born in the last years of Victoria, with limitless security in prospect-and then, all of human life completely disrupted by emancipation of women, great war, automobiles, airplanes, radio, Communism, Fascism, prohibition, Freud, movies, economic collapse. And the result so far? Emphatic improvement.” – from Robert E.Sherwood’s diary, 1937

New, More Political Productions

Many people in the theatre community are having a difficult time feeling complacent with many of Trump’s comments on people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community, and thus he is experiencing quite the artistic backlash. Artists feel it is their place in the world to question the status quo. They desire to challenge the way an audience already looks at the world and provide a fresh and different perspective. With President Trump’s presidency will come an onslaught of theatrical works shining a light of those who those who are now considered the underdog. And this is the beauty of art. As Natalie Baxter says, “Art creates an alternative context for dialogue on issues that elsewhere divide us.” And thus, like Sherwood says, will cause an improvement on the empathy of Americans.

Financial Roadblocks

However, while the creativity and enthusiasm may be high, there may be a financial roadblock artists will hit. Recently The Hill reported that the National Endowment for the Arts, or the NEA, may be put on the chopping block as way to reform the federal budget. What does this mean for theatre? The NEA is an “independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities.” The NEA supports the creative ambitions of several artists by providing grants to musicians, actors, and artists alike. While there has not been a definite decision on the status of the NEA, the rumors have struck a chord with many who are part of the theatre community.  Only time will tell if these rumors prove to be true.

The Return of Individual Patronage

However, if the National Endowment for the Arts does lose its federal funding, it will put a spotlight on individual patronage to it and similar foundations that support the arts. With Trump’s proposed platform, there will be an influx of jobs created for Americans. Perhaps with the increase of the jobs there will be an increased amount of donations towards these beloved foundations, as well as small theatre companies and small theatres. There are many Americans who are excited to have a president who is taking a strong stance on bringing the income and jobs back into America. Hopefully this will also allow things that were once luxuries, such as Broadway tickets, and healthy individual and corporate donations to our favorite non-profits, to once again become more popular with a broader scope of Americans, thus creating new audiences and opportunities for theatre artists everywhere.
History has shown that when times get rough the theatre community responds by producing plays that reflect the social, political, and economic climate they are in. Regardless of your political affiliation, it is hard to deny that America is in crisis. The crisis is not Trump himself, but rather the divide amongst Americans that this election has highlighted. Theatre will hopefully serve as a tool to create a different type of conversation on the topics that need to be discussed and help find a solution on how they can be addressed.

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