Federal taxpayers ponied up $60,000 this year to fund a raunchy zombie-themed play — an expense one senator says is a brainless example of waste within the government.
The National Endowment for the Arts says the play, “Zombie: The American,” about a president who faces a zombie invasion of the White House basement, met its funding guidelines, so it deserved the money.
But Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, declared it his latest “pork chop” project — a list of ridiculous spending on taxpayers’ dime.
“With spending like this, brain-eating zombies shouldn’t be a problem for D.C.,” Mr. Flake said.
Play author Robert O’Hara, playwright-in-residence at the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company in Washington, D.C., penned the script, which the funding award described it as a “futuristic, dystopian fantasy set in 2063,” where the president — the first gay chief executive — is facing a civil war, an “African invasion” and zombies in his basement.
The show carried a warning about a long running time and “strong adult content, sexual situations, nudity and fog.” It ran for nearly a month earlier this summer, and despite the $60,000 in taxpayer help, still charged up to $68 a ticket, Mr. Flake said.
An NEA spokeswoman wouldn’t say what, specifically earned the play taxpayer money, pointing instead to agency guidelines that say projects are evaluated on artistic excellence and merit.
“This grant was made per our grant guidelines,” said Victoria Hutter, the spokeswoman.
Mr. O’Hara didn’t respond to a request for comment submitted through his website.
The award description said the play was intended to reach a “wide range” of audiences in the capital, “including politicians and political workers, historians, futurists, civil rights organizations, college students and young fans of the current zombie craze.”
Mr. Flake, one of those target audience politicians, wasn’t amused with the expense.
He has picked up where former Sen. Tom Coburn, Congress’s top waste-watcher, left off when he retired at the end of the last Congress. Mr. Flake has plans to release a new version of the Wastebook at the end of this year, reprising Mr. Coburn’s marquee compendium of government excess.