Playwright Samuel Hunter, Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer Among MacArthur Genius Grant Recipients

Playwright Samuel Hunter, docu filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer, musician Steve Coleman and cartoonist Alison Bechdel are among this year’s picks for the MacArthur Foundation’s genius grants.

The 21 MacArthur Fellows for 2014 will each receive a grant of $625,000, paid out over five years, with no stipulations on how the money is used. The program aims to allow recipients “maximum freedom to follow their own creative visions,” according to the foundation. The program has handed out seed money to 897 other individuals since it began in 1981.

Hunter (pictured), 33, has emerged as one of the fastest-rising playwright in recent years, first attracting notice in New York with 2010’s “A Bright New Boise” and cementing his rep with the much-lauded 2012 Off Broadway run of “The Whale,” a strikingly empathetic tale about a morbidly obese shut-in. The prolific Idaho native delivered three new works in the 2013-14 season: “The Few,” “Rest” and “A Great Wilderness”; his latest, “Pocatello,” will premiere this season at Playwrights Horizons in a production that stars T.R. Knight.

Bechdel, the cartoonist of long-running comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” also has a link to the legit world. Her graphic memoir “Fun Home,” about her investigation into the internal struggles of her father, became one of the breakout hits of last season, with an awards-magnet Off Broadway run that propelled it to an upcoming Broadway transfer.

Oppenheimer, based in Copenhagen, made headlines with his 2012 Oscar-nominated docu “The Act of Killing,” about the state-sponsored killing of civilians in 1965 Indonesia under the Suharto regime. His new film, “The Look of Silence,” will screen as part of the New York Film Festival’s documentary spotlight section.

Coleman is a composer and alto saxophonist known for performing with his ensemble, Steve Coleman and Five Elements. The MacArthur winners’ list also encompasses scientists, poets and labor organizers, among others.


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