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Federal Funds Used to Stage “Doggie Hamlet”

Monday December 4th, 2017   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 6:14am PST   •  

35846309 - to be, or not be, that is the question - text on a slate blackboard against red barn wood Over the years, MyGovCost has highlighted some of the more bizarre ways that U.S. taxpayer funds have been used to accomplish really questionable things, but we may have a new contender for what is perhaps the strangest way that the U.S. government’s bureaucrats have ever wasted money.

It may not surprise you to learn that the specific bureaucrats in question are employed by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), who decided that the best way that they could spend another $30,000 was to fund the staging of “Doggie Hamlet” at an outdoor field in New Hampshire. Senator James Lankford documented how Americans paid to put on this very weird performance in his 2017 edition of Federal Fumbles.

As evidenced in previous editions of Federal Fumbles, the American public’s love for William Shakespeare has sometimes translated into unusual and unnecessary federal expenditures. For instance, tens of thousands were spent to support a production of Silent Shakespeare in 2015.18 However, the strangeness of those fumbles pales in comparison to a $30,000 NEA grant to support a production of Doggie Hamlet.

Doggie Hamlet actually includes humans yelling or running toward very confused sheep and dogs. The production, which does not include any actual lines from Hamlet, is conducted outdoors in a 30-by-50-foot field in New Hampshire. The play is described as “a beautiful and dreamlike spectacle weaving instinct, mystery, and movement into an unusual performance event.”

Many people view art subjectively, and there are likely many who would enjoy watching this play. However, with $20 trillion in national debt, it is difficult to explain to taxpayers in Oklahoma or Montana—even the people who work with sheep daily—why $30,000 was spent for a few people to run around a field yelling at sheep. The NEA should refocus its efforts and its support on grants that advance the arts and our national interests.

At first, we couldn’t believe it, but there is a YouTube video of the world premiere of Doggie Hamlet in Hanover, New Hampshire on June 29, 2017.

We have an idea for a different performance art piece, where we would stage a truly beautiful and dreamlike spectacle by taking a $30,000 grant from the NEA and using it to demonstrate the mysterious beauty of not wasting taxpayer dollars by returning it, wholly unspent, to the U.S. Treasury.

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December 2017