Spring, e e cummings wrote, is “a perhaps hand in the window”—not like a perhaps hand but in fact a hand—tentative, unexpected, likely to be withdrawn without notice. As we bask here in Santa Fe in Blackberry winter—that short interval in February when the temperature rises into the forties, which is supposed to “set” the coming fruit on blackberry bushes—I’m reminded of that perhaps hand, which will be withdrawn when the next winter storm roars in, in two days.
This is a particularly hard winter for me and most of my friends, and so the perhaps hand is especially important. The brief warmth brought out these fragile snowdrop blooms in my garden. The birds are shooting from tree to tree, the sun rises earlier, and if I was an incurable optimistic with no knowledge of history, I would think spring has come early, and to stay.
But it has not. Two days from now I will be shivering again.
The warmth seems to inspire the kinds of conversation that give me hope: with a man of the theatre who is working toward a radical program, modeled on the 1930’s WPA Theatre, in New York although not making use of those playwrights—Clifford Odets, the early Eugene O’Neil, Elizabeth Robins, Cicely Hamilton, Susan Glaspell, Zona Gale (although since the plays by these women are all but forgotten, there’s a strong argument for introducing them to today’s audience). His only model, right now, is the work of Eve Ensler.
His idea is not yet a plan but it leads me to wonder why theatre as we know it now takes so few risks. The Lensic Performing Arts Center here seems to have reduced its live theatre offerings to the polished professional simulcasts of the “classics”—can we redefine the meaning of that word?—imported from London. Our two new “little” theatres, still striving to find their audience in a city notoriously unsympathetic to theatre (the Santa Fe Opera absorbs both audiences and support) stick mainly to the tried and true. Right now the new Adobe Rose Theatre is being used for a high school production of Aida, surely the oldest of old chestnuts. Theatre Grotesco, always adventurous, is on winter break and Teatro Paraguas, our only Spanish-language theatre, is putting on a play by Tanya Saracho with a drearily familiar theme: the consequences of a romantic break-up. The great success in this area—broadly defined—is the incredibly well-financed Meow Wolf, a giant playhouse for grownups that seems unlikely to endure.
Even now with our country in a state of hysteria over the goings on in Washington, we can’t seem to summon the will, or the skill, to write plays—or write fiction or poetry, or paint, or sculpt—in ways that would be relevant to our crisis.
Is it possible to believe, as my novelist friend does, that the act of creating is itself political?
The practice of art must be inherently dangerous to capitalism since it is an impossible way to earn a living.
What do YOU think?