The National Science Foundation awarded $700,000 to fund a climate change musical.
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, on March 26
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The ruling: TRUE
Foundation spokeswoman Dana Topousis said by email that the grant was awarded in 2010, adding: "The Civilians Inc., a Brooklyn, N.Y., theatre company, developed an innovative, out-of-the-box approach to exposing U.S. citizens to science. The project represents the unique cultural leverage of theater in its attempt to inspire the public's imagination and curiosity about basic science and its relation to their everyday lives."
Topousis continued: "This venture, like other more traditional NSF-funded informal science education projects (e.g., interactive science exhibits, IMAX films, science-based television programming), aims to educate through a focus on understanding the scientific method, its applications and its unique ability to extract knowledge about our complex natural world."
A foundation summary of the grant award, brought to our attention by Topousis and Zach Kurz, staff spokesman for the Republican side of Smith's committee, states that a grant totaling $697,177 was awarded in 2010 covering August 2010 through July 2014.
The summary describesThe Great Immensity as a "touring play with songs and video that explores our relationship to the environment, with a focus on critical issues of climate change and biodiversity conservation."
By phone, Sarah Benvenuti, an administrator for the Civilian Theater Co., said the play is scheduled to run from Friday until May 1 at the Public Theater's Martinson Hall in New York, which is not on Broadway. Tickets will be $20 each, she said.
Benvenuti said the play is about climate change and includes musical numbers, which one can view in online videos. Margin of Error, for instance, shows cast members singing about poll results. (Really.)
We wondered whether the presentation is explicit, say, about human contributions to warming.
Benvenuti didn't say, though she stressed that the play draws on direct conversations with expert scientists. "Climate change is a real thing," she said. "We have to do something about it."
The script is not published, she said, but she pointed out the Public Theater's online description of the play as a "continent-hopping thriller."
Finally, we circled back to the foundation to ask whether the musical was an unusual grant beneficiary. Topousis replied that while the NSF "research portfolio this falls under - Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) - contains projects at the intersection of science and the arts, NSF's funding this kind of project - a theatrical production - is rare."
We rate this statement True.
Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.