Three theater artists who share an innate and expanding ability to astonish were among the 24 people named Monday evening as this year’s MacArthur Fellows — commonly known as “genius grants” because they include a stipend of $625,000, paid out over five years, that comes with no strings attached.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, 35, is the composer, author and star of Hamilton, which is playing to sold-out houses on Broadway after an acclaimed run earlier this year at the Public Theater. His first show, In The Heights, a Tony Award-winning love letter to his home in upper Manhattan’s Washington Heights, was written while he was a college student in Connecticut.
Set designer Mimi Lien, 39, combines a miniaturist’s eye for detail with a silver strain of whimsy, as evidenced in her exquisite Pennsylvania bed-and-breakfast set for Annie Baker’s new play John, currently running at the Signature Center off-Broadway. And Basil Twist, 46, has been significantly responsible for raising puppetry to the level of serious dramatic art in the U.S., much as it is in Japan and throughout Asia, while broadening the scope and form of their use in contemporary and frequently mind-boggling fare, often at the innovative HERE Arts Center in New York’s Soho.
Also among the newly minted fellows is Ta-Nehisi Coates, 39, a journalist for The Atlantic magazine and author most recently of Between The World And Me, a best-seller addressed to his teenage son that contemplates the experience of being a black man in today’s U.S.
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, rooted in real estate and insurance interests dating back to the late 19th century, has been a major independent supporter of individual artists as well as cultural organizations. The Fellows program began in 1981 and to date has included 942 people from a various disciplines in the arts and sciences. For the complete list of 2015 new fellows, see https://www.macfound.org/fellows/class/2015/