MacArthur Foundation Crowns At Least Three Gay “Geniuses”

Left to right: Kyle Abraham, Jeremy Denk, and Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Earlier this week, 24 talented people learned that they had been selected as the newest class of grant winners from the MacArthur Foundation, one of the most prestigious fellowship programs in the country.

These “geniuses,” as recipients have become popularly known, earned this honor by being “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” Their reward: $625,000, which they are free to spend as they see fit.

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal.

There are three main criteria for the selection of fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

This year, three of the 24 recipients are gay: dancer-choreographer Kyle Abraham, pianist and writer Jeremy Denk, and playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Frankly, we’re surprised there were only three. Of course we suppose there are more gay geniuses out there than straight ones, at least proportionally.

Three years ago, 36-year-old Kyle Abraham, who lives in New York and runs the Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion dance company, was relying on food stamps. Yesterday, in a phone interview with the New York Times, he said: “I was laughing about it. I was crying about it. It was so overwhelming. I’ve been trying to figure out how to pay off my student loans to this day.”

43-year-old Jeremy Denk, a pianist and faculty member at the Bard College Conservatory of Music, was equally surprised to hear the news. In a prepared statement released on Wednesday, he wrote: “I am thrilled, honored, and a bit overwhelmed to receive the MacArthur Fellowship. My mind is reeling with ideas how best to use the money and the gifts of time and artistic freedom it represents.”

In an interview with a local newspaper, Denk’s parents said, appropriately enough, they were “tickled pink” at the news of their son’s honor.

Denk’s good news comes on the eve of his latest album release, The Goldberg Variations, which will go live September 30.

32-year-old Tarell Alvin McCraney, a playwright and member of Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago, was the third openly gay person to be award this year’s “Genius” Award (at least as far as we can figure by studying the resumes of the winners).

“This is surreal,” McCraney said in an interview with with Chicago Tribune. He is currently in London, where he he works at the Royal Shakespeare Company. “I am thinking this will be, for me, focus money. It will allow me to focus, instead of trying to do so many projects at once.”

McCraney is the author of Choir Boy, a gospel musical about competition and homophobia in an elite all-black boys school, which enjoyed a successful run at the Manhattan Theater Club earlier this summer.

We’d offer to buy you boys a drink to celebrate, but we think you should buy.