DNAWORKS and Teatro Paraguas in Partnersip with the Sante Fe Art Instutitue and the Performing Arts Conservatory of the Southwest, Sante Fe, NM
November 14, 2012
Directed by Daniel Banks
by Daniel Banks
On November 14, 2012, a consortium of local arts organizations in Santa Fe, NM, hosted a reading of Caridad Svich's play SPARK with Teatro Paraguas, including DNAWORKS, Performing Arts Conservatory of the Southwest (PACS), and Santa Fe Art Institute. The storefront theatre was packed with an audience representing Santa Fe’s multiple populations whom do not typically interact in this way. Part of the draw was the actors’ contacts, part was the venue’s followers, and a major attraction was the subject matter with the promise of a dialogue afterwards with “local women impacted by war.”
The cast of New Mexico actors – including Nicole Gramlich, Kate Kita, Elias Gallegos, Nicholas Ballas and Lesley Reveles – inhabited the characters and the world of the play. Guitarist Jaime Martinez provided transitions using the evocative melodies that Caridad provided, which the actors also sang. There were audible gasps from the audience at particular moments of recognition and pathos. And the dialogue that followed, moderated by local writer/activist Lenore Gallegos, included a woman whose daughter is currently in basic training, the Vietnam veteran father of one of the actors, and one of the actors and her sister whose father and brother are both veterans. The conversation focused on PTSD and how families also suffer from post-traumatic stress. The audience had the opportunity to hear stories from within the larger Santa Fe community that many had not heard before; and veterans in the audience were also acknowledged and heard.
Nicolas Ballas, a local veteran actor who completely captured the role of Vaughn, shares: “There's an unfolding in the acting process that occurs when I have the opportunity to breathe a voice into the words I have been given on a sheet of paper. With SPARK, Vaughn's personal language was the voice of pain and damage wrapped in the lyrical drawl of the south. It wasn't until I actually felt the language emerging from my body that I understood the man's shattered heart. What a wonderful opportunity to share that discovery in a healing process with an audience!”
And Stefany G. Burrows, the associate producer of the event, writes, “The play clearly moved the audience in a variety of ways, but particularly in terms of the plight of veterans returning from combat. I found the songs to be especially powerful as integral parts of the play and the characters. I love how the dialogue moves so organically and swiftly – until it doesn't. The rhythm of a play/scene is so critical, and this play makes great use of it. The relationships and the characters grow and change very believably. In the reading process, I was particularly struck by how invisible the female veterans are – at least here in NM. Apparently one female vet who came to the reading left at intermission because she found it too stressful. I wonder about whether and how these women are getting the help they need. This play has the potential to bring this issue out into the open in a heartfelt and powerful way. The experience overall deepened my concern for the men and women returning from combat. As a Quaker, I cannot condone war in any way. It is incomprehensible to me that we send anyone to war. And I see the damage to our veterans. I am appalled and grieved by it.”
Thank you to Caridad and No Passport for providing a forum for this timely and healing conversation, and for writing such powerful and haunting characters. It is clear from the comments I have received that the people who were present at the reading and dialogue were changed by it.
Daniel Banks, 12-3-12
Daniel Banks is co-founder of DNAWORKS and the editor of Say Word!: Voices from Hip-Hop Theatre published by University of Michigan Press. Daniel Banks, Ph.D., is a theatre director, choreographer, educator, and dialogue facilitator. He has worked extensively in the U.S. and abroad, having directed at such notable venues as the National Theatre of Uganda (Kampala), the Belarussian National Drama Theatre (Minsk), The Market Theatre (Johannesburg, South Africa), the Hip Hop Theatre Festival (New York and Washington, D.C.), the Oval House (London), and served as choreographer/movement director for productions at New York Shakespeare Festival/Shakespeare in the Park, Singapore Repertory Theatre, La Monnaie/De Munt (Brussels), Landestheater (Saltzburg), Aaron Davis Hall (Harlem), and for Maurice Sendak/The Night Kitchen.