GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A theatre group is pulling its production from a Grand Rapids venue whose owner excluded a drag show featuring performers who have Down syndrome.
Curiosity Theater announced its decision to drop Tanglefoot Wednesday. The theater group is now looking for a new venue for its Sept. 12, 19 and Oct. 3 performances of “Tiny Beautiful Things.”
“This is not a decision we make lightly but the censorship made by Peter Meijer of the UK group Drag Syndrome is in direct contradiction to the mission of Curiosity Theatre to include all voices and bring new ideas to Grand Rapids,” Curiosity Theater Executive Director Krista Pennington stated in a Wednesday news release.
Drag Syndrome was set to perform at Tanglefoot as part of Project 1 by ArtPrize when Meijer, who owns Tanglefoot, contacted ArtPrize about the show. Meijer is the grandson of Meijer stores co-founder Frederik Meijer and a Republican candidate for the U.S. Congress seat currently held by Rep. Justin Amash.
Drag Syndrome show facilitator DisArt released the Aug. 19 letter Meijer sent to ArtPrize in which he wrote that “after deep reflection on the nature of Drag Syndrome’s performance, I cannot approve of their use of Tanglefoot’s facilities,” citing concerns about the “potential exploitation of the vulnerable.”
DisArt, a Grand Raids group that works to connect art and people with disabilities, said Meijer’s exclusion of Drag Syndrome “is discrimination, it is self-preservation, it is exploitation for political gain. It is not protection.”
DisArt also pointed out that this is the first time Meijer has been involved in approving or denying a show at his building.
DisArt says Drag Syndrome will still take place on the first day of Project 1 by ArtPrize, but it’s not yet clear where that Sept. 7 performance will happen.
In a statement posted on its website, ArtPrize said it “has always supported free artistic expression by all participants and has not denied or screen individuals. Consistent with this, we believe it would be inappropriate to limit the participation of performers who have Down syndrome.”