Grand Rapids theater group pulls show from Peter Meijer venue

    The Tanglefoot in Grand Rapids | Nick Manes

    Last week, Republican congressional candidate Peter Meijer banned an international troupe of drag performers who also have Down Syndrome from performing at his Grand Rapids venue, the Tanglefoot. Now a Grand Rapids-based group, Curiosity Theatre, on Wednesday announced it would pull its upcoming performance there.

    Peter Meijer

    The Tanglefoot will host an installation for Project 1, an exhibition planned by the ArtPrize organization next month. Meijer, who is running next year for the 3rd Congressional District seat held by U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Cascade Twp.), told Project 1 organizers he couldn’t allow Drag Syndrome, an acclaimed United Kingdom-based group of people with Down Syndrome who perform in drag, to use the space for their planned performance. He cited his fear of the performers’ “exploitation.”

    Curiosity Theatre was set to perform “Tiny Beautiful Things” on Sept. 12, 19 and Oct. 3 at the Tanglefoot and is now looking for a new venue.

    “This is not a decision we make lightly,” said Executive Director Krista Pennington. “But the censorship made by Peter Meijer of the UK group Drag Syndrome is in direct contradiction to the mission of Curiosity Theatre to include all voices and bring new ideas to Grand Rapids.”

    Disclosure: Pennington is the partner of Advance Assistant Editor Nick Manes.

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    Susan J. Demas is an 18-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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