Sunday, September 23, 2018

Hidden Treasures – The Carl & Marilyn Thoma Foundation

When I asked my wife just over 20 years ago which part of the Southwest  we should buy a home in … not thinking of moving permanently,  she unhesitatingly said, “Santa Fe, its an arts town!”  Little did we know that our many visits here had only scratched the surface.  There are roughly, 80,000 residents in the “City Different” and 150,000 in Santa Fe County. The town has four State owned museums and four private ones plus two kunsthalles presenting contemporary work.  Many have heard about the galleries here but then there are also interesting art spaces worth seeing.   The Ralph T. Coe Center for the Arts which I have written about qualifies as one.  The other day we “discovered” another.

Of course, we did not “discover” it as we had often heard of the Thoma Foundation. We knew it was contemporary art which we have mixed reactions to, so it was not at the top of our priority list.  We recently decided we were finally going to go, a whole 7 minute drive from our home.  It is in a small historic house on Delgado Street which has a number of galleries leading up to the famous Canyon Road, the art street of town.

The Carl and Marilyn Thoma Art Foundation is active both in the couple’s home town of, Chicago  and Santa Fe, where they also have a house.  Carl is a venture capitalist and Marilyn started out at Quaker Oats becoming marketing manager and then moving on to do marketing for  communications companies.  They started the Foundation in 2014.

The Thoma’s main collections are in Chicago, but they keep their collection of Digital Art in Santa Fe and it gets rotated in their exhibition space here.  When I heard digital art I wanted to run but visiting the Foundation I was quickly drawn in by some of the works.  I will admit upfront that some of the pieces and their labels made me equally dizzy but then others pieces were intriguing, so much so that one might feel comfortable living with them long term.  These are not action images by any means, but rather slow moving contemplative ones.  Some concepts are explained in labels in art-speak, a language I never learned.

A work in the first exhibition room reminds me of a traditional weaving.  It is a cotton tapestry by Laura Splan (b. Memphis, 1973)  woven on a computerized jacquard loom. It is called appropriately, “Squint” (2016). Of course, I interpreted it quite differently from the label which says in part, “The Squint tapestry is the result of the artist conducting a biometric reading of the electrical activity of the muscles surrounding her eyes (orbicularis Oculi) as she squinted….”  This is just the easier part of the procedure to understand! I do see that if you understand science and have the right equipment you can do this, but it seems a long way from where I have always believed art comes from.  Obviously, I have lots to learn!

Some digital images turn out to be calming and quiet such as Daniel Canogar’s (Madrid, Spain 1964 -  ) “Gust”.  It is a digital sculpture with flexible LED lights, custom software and the internet. It uses real-time wind data in Santa Fe to generate a live, responsive light animation.

The piece I most related to is by the well-known theater director and designer, Robert Wilson, (Waco, Texas, 1941 - ).  To my astonishment and pleasure he picked a neo-classical theme.  His model is Lady Gaga and his guide is the artist, Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres who painted the portrait of Madmoiselle Caroline Rivière in 1806 which hangs in the Musée du Louvre.  Wilson’s portrait Lady Gaga: Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière”, 2013, is created in high-definition video on plasma monitor with music by Michael Galasso.  It is extremely slow moving.  Here is an image of Lady Gaga with eyes open and then a video where if you look carefully a bird flies across the sky.

Wilson’s work is hung beside an 18th portrait of a woman by Andrés Solano (Carribean, active (1732-1789) from the Thoma’s Spanish Colonial collection. It makes a conscious and interesting and maybe, even shocking, juxtaposition.

On the opposite wall an interactive video by Daniel Rozin (Jerusalem, 1961 - ) shows the two portraits and you, the viewers, who materialize and disappear while the portraits remain. It is called “Selfish Gene Mirror” (2015) it is done with custom software, webcam, computer and monitor.  Quoting the label “In Selfish Gene Mirror, the artist’s customized “Darwinian Algorithm” creates a didital gene pool in which lines of approximately ten pixels behave like competing genes.  Of the 10,000 or so pixel groupings, only half will survive this competition to replicate and blossom into the viewers image.” Mr. Rozin is stated to be working from a 1976 book “The Selfish Gene” by a philosopher, Richard Dawking,  but we don’t have to know that to enjoy the piece.

It often takes a while to accept a new form of art. We all like what we know and are used to, but when push comes, sometimes, to shove (by my wife or a friend) I may find that my prejudices are ill-founded and I actually enjoy it.  Who knows, maybe I will return to the Thoma Foundation in order to understand what I saw better than on my first exposure.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Trip to Albuquerque

My parents went to their country club every weekend most of the year to play golf and it took 45 minutes to an hour.  Yet a trip from Santa Fe to Albuquerque which takes a similar time seems to be a far rarer occurrence for us.

Last weekend, however, we joined a group called “Conexiones” started by the Spanish Colonial Society in Santa Fe to make the journey.  Joseph Diaz, director and Jana Gotshalk, curator were with us.

Our first stop was actually to old friends of ours Judy and Ray Dewey.  They used to live in Santa Fe and Ray was a dealer here, one of the most honest dealers I ever met.  We became good friends and for that matter clients as well.  Even though he kept repeating that they had sold and given away so much in the last years it was still a collector’s dream to walk around the rooms ogling the collection.  Though we were told nothing was for sale… you never know! People in our group even made discoveries of objects they did not seem significant enough to show but were true treasures even if not worth great amounts.  Judy and Ray enjoy talking about the chase and the capture of works that they had been looking at in other collections for long periods of time.  This is, of course, a time honored theme for collectors.  Here is a sample of the many fields that the Deweys are interested in including their most recent in modern Mexican painting.

From there we went on to a well known restaurant in that area, El Pinto, which was a huge place with several patios and rooms.  The food was good southwest though like on many group trips the service was exceedingly slow meaning we spent more time for one course at the restaurant as we did at the collectors’ house!

Our final stop was at the gallery of Martha Egan in Corrales, also a suburb of Albuquerque.  Her card says she is with the Department of Cultural Affairs for the State of New Mexico as a “Research Associate” at the Museum of International Folk Art.  Marth was well known by many because she had had a gallery in Santa Fe called, Pachamama, named after a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes.

Martha talked about collecting, a disease that most of her audience suffer from!   She had restored an 18th century building and put back the Vineyard that had originally been there, quite a beautiful spot.  There was a main room and a number of smaller ones; everyone enjoyed poking their heads inside to see how the objects fit into the realm of Spanish Colonial Art.

One of the pleasures of these trips is to meet new people and sometimes you even find you have interesting tangential connections with them.  I was chatting with one lady who was very well versed in Spanish Colonial art and her son worked on a news desk for Fox news… I told her I would forgive her that.  I was happy to hear he dealt with less inflammatory news than we sometimes here!

I don’t know about you, but I find that whenever I do something that I rarely do I am doomed to do it again in very short order.  So, 2 days later, sure enough, we were back to Albuquerque.  Medicine in this part of the world is not what it is in the big cities back East.  Sometimes finding the right doctor means driving a bit.  We had planned it out and after the doctor we were headed for the art museum to see an exhibition of New Mexico Jewelry.  We just forgot one thing.  The Museum is closed on Mondays! 

We went then to the Science Museum where they had a summer show on the scientific models of Leonardo da Vinci’s scientific instruments.  Only problem was that exhibit had closed the week before!  We contented ourselves with looking at the permanent dinosaur exhibition.  My wife who had to help our son when he was in second grade with his science project on dinosaurs took far more interest than I did though this 2-story model was impressive.

Our final stop on this journey was lunch where we were invited by Emily Blaugrund Fox.  Emily is the President of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.  I was fascinated by the name Blaugrund because it is a German word and means blue ground.  What was the derivation of that name I wondered.  Maybe, a painter?  Who knows?  You learn something every day and I found out that all the Blaugrund’s are related and there are some all over the country … who knew.

The Albuquerque Museum is opening a major exhibition in early November of Treasures from the Hispanic Society in New York.  The latter is something of hidden treasure there, as well, since it is on West Broadway taking up the block between 155th and 156th Street.  I will leave the details for when the show comes to town but suffice it to say that while the Hispanic Society Museum is closed for major renovations they have created an incredible loan exhibition which showed at the Prado Museum in Madrid and will come to Albuquerque possibly being it only U.S. venue.  That should bring a few of our friends to town!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

John Sidney McCain III (1936-2018)

I was going to write about an exhibition that is coming soon to New York. I looked at my list of possible Missives and had a number of ideas, but I could not get the weekend of John McCain’s funeral out of my head.  I then wondered if a septuagenarian like me who has been to the left of … (there does not seem to be an opposite of “to the right of Atilla the Hun” so let’s say my German Jewish Parents) had a right to speak of a very conservative Senator who had served his country for 60 years.  Finally, after seeing his televised funeral service I realized though I had never met Senator McCain he would have told me to go ahead and write what I believed in.

I did, however, put a toe in the water first and wrote the following on Facebook, “What's on Your Mind?” (a question that pops up whenever signing onto Facebook) How can anything other than the funeral of John McCain be on our minds. I fervently hope that anyone who reads this and has young children tells them of John McCain, one of the too few who treated all people equally. I probably agreed with McCain hardly at all on political and social issues, yet he was always ready to listen, something that seems totally lost in our new political age. Politicians on both sides have only one interest which is to oppose anything and everything that the other side says. I am sure that ‘Mr. Smith’ would have no interest in going to Washington today. It is no longer a swamp but a stink hole with no principles. Never forget that John McCain was willing to walk across the aisle.”  With this posting I had more positive reactions on line, from more friends and strangers, than ever before!

I remember being most impressed when McCain crossed that aisle to work with his political opposite, Senator Hillary Clinton, of New York.  I did not realize that they genuinely liked each other and once even exchanged vodka shots on an official trip!

We have heard often the stories, particularly in recent weeks. of his failures and his errors, not only from the left but also from the right.  So why was John McCain considered a hero.  After all, as the current president once pointed out, cruelly, that he was not a hero because he was captured and a prisoner of war.  Personally, I can think of nothing worse that could happen to a person.  He was held and tortured for five years in a Vietnamese Prison camp. When he was offered the chance to get out because he was the son of an Admiral,  he refused to leave  without his team that went down in the plane with him.  He must have known he was going back to prison to have even worse torture inflicted on him, but he was an honorable man.

 He also lost in two runs for the presidency, first in the 2000 primaries against  George W. Bush, and then against Barack Obama in 2008.  For reasons I will never understand, some sort of death wish, he chose Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate.  Yet, after losing, he did not stomp off and do everything he could to undermine his opponents, but exited gracefully and continued the good fight for what he believed in. We learned listening to Obama’s eulogy at McCain’s funeral that they would get together from time to time in the Oval Office, with no one else around, to discuss family as well as policy.  They could even laugh together.  We have no information on exactly what they discussed but I believe when people get together with no agenda they inevitably influence each other.  If we do not know what the other is thinking how can we come to a successful agreement.

In the now famous anonymous editorial by a high ranking member of the administration in the New York Times regarding the inner workings of the White House he/she sums up my thoughts extremely well. The author, who may have been identified by the time this goes on line, writes, “Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.”

Sunday, September 2, 2018

A Catered Affair

Some years ago, I wrote a Missive about a chocolate party and was chastised by an art dealer friend that this was not about art.  Maybe, because I am both a gourmet and a gourmand I begged to disagree.  Once upon a time I cooked regularly and in my library was “The Art of French Cooking”, the book by the iconic chef, Julia Child.  Of course, today you can find pages on line about the art of cooking.  Chefs, very much like all artists, try many experiments with food adding and subtracting ingredients until they find the formula that works the best.

To create a good dinner party you need to mix the food with the right ingredients to make it a success and the most important ingredient is the guests who need to be able to discover common interests.  To state the obvious, you might not wish to invite people who speak about sports all the times and others who are only interested in opera and classical music.

Usually We have dinner parties with another couple or two where my wife grills on our barbeque and I assist with setup and service.  It is probably the best way to entertain friends and people you want to get to know better.  The problem is, when one of us is up working on dinner we miss out on conversation.  Of course, if you have only one other couple inevitably they will be up trying to help which is not ideal either.   If there are two other couples at least they can speak with each other while we are up and about.

Recently, we decided that we had a guest from out of town and we wanted him to meet several people. We are limited by our table size which seats a maximum of 8 but still that is a lot of people to serve at a sit down dinner.  Mind you we have had close to 100 friends in the house, but they were grazing and it was most definitely buffet style.

In this country and abroad I have been served by staff but that is rare among our friends here.  We had catered meals when we lived on Park Avenue in New York but that was de facto formal and usually clients were involved.  In Santa Fe everything is much less formal.  Our caterer for the few formal meals we did in New York was actually the chef and owner of an excellent local French restaurant a block away from us.  We learned later that she hit one of our guests for a loan that she never repaid!

Santa Fe has several caterers. There is, of course, the one that “everyone uses”, but then you might find that you are serving the same meal people have recently had elsewhere.

We had learned that a local not for profit which I have mentioned before, Youth Works, had a culinary arts training component.  Chef Carmen Rodriguez, who was chef at a major restaurant in town and a former New Mexico Chef of the Year, with his wife Penny, started their own catering company and kitchen.  Youth Works was looking for a kitchen and so the Rodriguezes began a program training young folk on the art of cooking and serving.

Chef Carmen Rodriguez and his wife Penny far right

We had sampled their handiwork both at a luncheon the Mayor gave and at  a party at the Spanish Colonial museum. Everyone said that they were easy and pleasant to work with. So we figured if we could do a good dinner party that was both of a formal nature with full service and have pleasant people to work and help out and with a “not for profit”, to boot, it was definitely a win, win situation!

We were not disappointed.  It could not have worked out better.   Our guests, who actually all arrived on time, seemed to enjoy each other’s company and the dinner flowed along as if it was no work at all.  Chef Carmen and Penny brought two students along teaching them as they went how to prepare the meal, set a table and serve.  The guests saw none of this, even though we have an open kitchen/dining room set up so everyone was visible to all.

Chef Carmen choreographed the meal in what he terms “Global Latin” cuisine and acted as Master of Ceremonies as well.  Before the first course was served he told the guests briefly about Youth Work and their role there.  He then explained each course as it was being served speaking of the natural foods and the farm in Santa Fe that their supplies come from.  The Chef’s use of Tequila as an ingredient seemed to particularly interest our guests and they acted disappointed when they learned that they would neither get high nor actually taste the tequila.  Before the meal Chef Carmen had told me a secret that, while for sipping one bought the best tequila one could afford, as a cooking tool one should find the cheapest available.

By now you might be thinking what about the cost of this extravagance?  We figured it out later and realized that while this methodology of having guests was not inexpensive it was still less than if we had taken all out to dinner in a restaurant.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Too Many Indians

One little, two little, too many Indians!

You know you love your young children, but admit it, once school vacations are over you heave a sigh of relief when they go back to school and you are back to work.  Well, that is the way we feel after the last 10 days here in Santa Fe.

First there were three  major fairs occurring over one week. One sold all kinds of art, Asian, Spanish Colonial, Native American and miscellaneous material called “Objects of Art Show”. Then there is “The Antique Indian and Ethnographic show” and finally, “Antique American Indian Art Show”.   In addition one finds small satellite fairs.  Dealers come from around the country, some doing more than one of these shows, holding their best pieces for the show they think is the most important or brings in the best collectors. 

At one of the shows we saw a piece that we seriously considered. It had just been sold to the dealer a couple of weeks before at a fair in Albuquerque where one sometimes finds bargains if you know what you are looking for, but we had skipped it this year.  It was a very rare piece of textile, a shirt made by a Hopi Indian probably between 1920 and 1930.  We decided to pass on it as we have a vest that is similar though not as elaborate as this one had more embroidery and sleeves.  Here is an image of the piece.

Let us not forget the many Santa Fe galleries that also put out their best Native American objects over these weeks.  The museums also often have Native American exhibitions on.

Last week I wrote about The Ralph T. Coe Center show which opened in this same week.  (It also happened to be our anniversary which deserved some celebration after 43 years.)  Then there was one of our favorite events of the year, Feast Day at Santa Clara Pueblo where we can observe Indian dances on four  plazas and a feast fit for kings at a good friend’s home.

We had a few meals to share with collectors, curators and a museum director.  I am exhausted just writing about this prelude to the culmination of the week which is the SWAIA (Southwest Association for India Arts) Indian Market, a 3-day extravaganza which we have been going to for the past 28 years!  There are over 100 Native American Nations represented and over 10 times as many artists in booths around the Plaza and 10 times that number of visitors come from all over the world.  When over a hundred thousand visitors descend on a town of 70,000 residents it tends to get crowded and excitement fills the air. You don’t need auction fever (though there are a number of auctions during this time) to  be swept up in a feeding frenzy of art acquisition.

No one is allowed to buy or sell before the official Indian Market opens Saturday at 7:00 AM sharp. There is a judging the days before and then a preview event where one can go to see the works entered for prizes and the winners.  A few collectors arrive on the Plaza as early as 4:00 am to be sure they are first in line for a prize winner and in some cases, they even pay someone to stand in their place until they arrive just before 7:00.

Only once, about 25 years ago, did we arrive with our excited young son, Hunter, around 6:30 to buy prize winners: a basket from Evangeline Talaheftewa and a silver concho belt from her son, Roy.  At the preview this year we spotted two  pieces that we were seriously interested in and to our amazement they were still available around 7:30 the next morning.  Maybe it was because they didn’t receive prizes! 

The first was a bolo tie. I own quite a number which are Hopi overlay silver but this bolo was quite different, made of zirconian and carbon  fiber  by Pat Pruitt. To quote from his biography, “Pat Pruitt is a contemporary artist of Laguna, Chiricahua Apache and Anglo descent who is known for his cutting-edge work that uses innovative materials …”. That was the perfect description of what I saw at preview in the large case of glittering jewelry by other artists.  When I sent him a photo our son responded, “Wow that's the sleekest bolo I've ever seen. It's like the "Night Rider" of bolos. “  I could not agree more.

The second piece that intrigued us was a Katsina carving by Ron Honyumtewa from Hopi.  He described it as follows, “This piece of Masauu is a reminder to us all, he is the guardian, the caretaker and watches us all (humans) letting us know we are only guest of his world and for this reason we see the destruction of what is occurring in the world today. This piece is called, “Katsi Yay Ngwa” a New Life Beginning ...”  Here is an image of the Katsina and a photo the artist gave us as he developed it showing that I was carved out of one piece of wood.

To be able to acquire these two objects and see so many friends who came to our neck of the woods for Indian Market made the hectic pace worth it. As our son said as a young teenager, “This collecting is exhausting”!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Coe Center for the Arts - IMPRINT

This collaborative effort is an exhibition called “Imprint”.  It opened at the Ralph T. Coe Center for the arts last week and was organized by guest curator Nina Sanders (Crow Tribe) and Bess Murphy, curator at the Coe Center.

Before I go further let me explain that the Coe was called The Ralph T. Coe Foundation so if you do a search among my missives don’t be confused they are the same organization. I have written about the Coe often and if you want to have a lot of background just put the word Coe in the box, upper left, and scroll down through the Missives.

Six selected artists were asked to work together to create this show. They came up with the title representing the obvious meaning of artists prints and its literal definition, “To Imprint is to forge a connection that leaves a lasting mark”. To quote one of the artists. Eliza Naranjo Morse, (Santa Clara Pueblo), “Once in a while we experience something so deep and profound we are left with  an imprint that transforms our way of seeing and understanding forever.  Experiences like these are essential to growth and the culmination of wisdom …”

The other participating artists are Jamison Chas Banks (Seneca-Cayuga-Cherokee) Jason Garcia (Santa Clara Pueblo), Terran Last Gun (Piikani (Blackfeet), Dakota Mace (Diné (Navajo)), and Jacob Meders (Mechoopda – Maidu). As you can see, it is  a very diverse group with only Terran Last Gun describing himself specifically as a pintmaker while the rest say multi-disciplinary. 

There is the exhibition that one can see at the Coe in Santa Fe but you might enjoy it elsewhere as well. Through August 26 an auxiliary show with Axle Contemporary, a van that travels around Santa Fe and environs has prints you can buy by these artists.  The show will also appear in Durango, Las Vegas, Nevada and other places in the form of newspaper boxes containing prints and ephemera created by one of these six  artists, such as a CD by Jason Garcia.  If you discover one you can take what you find, but do leave something for the next lucky person who stumbles on one of these newspaper boxes.

What was important to the artists was to engage with each other, the broader public and institutions across Santa Fe to create a dialog and show how one can communicate through art.  Aside from Axle they are also working with the Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) and the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and the Form and Concept Gallery . The artists are working in silkscreen, letterpress and handmade paper, cardboard boxes, shopping bags and other media to tell stories via visual media.

We have always been amazed by all the thought that Native American Artists put into their work. The stories their images tell are far more intricate than you might at first imagine, involving heritage and family.  As a generalization I have found that Native Americans explain their art in a much clearer fashion than Anglo artists usually do.

The  Imprint project is not static.  Other prints might be added, new places for newspaper boxes might pop up.  You will have to watch Face Book and the Ralph T. Coe Center website to keep track of what will happen next.

Now for a few of my favorite works:
One of them is by Eliza Naranjo Morse, a member of an unbelievably talented artistic family, the Naranjos of Santa Clara Pueblo.  Her watercolor, pen and acrylic piece, called “With a Gun” follows a theme she has been following for some years but this is the most elaborate and the only one that could come out of an updated Grimm fairy tale.

I find the three shopping bags by Terran Last Gun very effective.  They are serigraphs done in a edition of 10, called “Above Beings & US”.  Last Gun  sees his geometric designs as telling a story of the artist’s path between here and home.  His bags he imagines either being mounted or carrying books or clothing etc. He writes that they “present a powerful conundrum for us to consider; if a throwaway material or commercial process is used in the making of ‘fine’ art what exactly is the end result”.

I have been following Jason  Garcia, also known by his Indian name Okuupin, for quite a while, particularly his ceramic tiles in his comic book series of “Tewa Tales of Suspense”.  Here is one of his tiles from that series called “Warrior Maiden Muse” being hand processed clay.

There is so much more to see but I will end with the mural outside the Coe.  The images are by Terran Last Gun, Eliza Naranjo Morse and Jason Garcia.  They are painted on paper and adhered to the wall by flour and water (wheat paste).  The printer was Matthew Chase Daniel of Axle Contemporary.  They are painted in vertical strips that have been pasted together.  Other images on other walls could appear anywhere at any time.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Theatre in Santa Fe: “November”

When we first came to Santa Fe, theatre was spotty.  There was the Santa Fe Playhouse but what we had seen there was more of a high school quality than professional.  Under new direction, however, I understand it has improved greatly.  Somehow, while opera got better and better and there was more and more dance, from classical ballet to modern dance, and even classical orchestra and choral groups, we saw no continuous theater.  Various Shakespeare companies came and went as they also could not find their audience.

In recent times this has changed, however, an online publication called Theatre Santa Fe ( might post 6 different theatre pieces in a single week and recently Shakespeare has returned as well.  It is rarely on the “main drag”, however.   To put it in New York terms we only have one “Broadway” house and that is the Lensic Performing Arts Center, about which I have written often, but  there has been a burst of what could be called “off Broadway” houses.

An outlying area in Santa Fe has been developing as a center for the arts.  It is known as the Siler Rufino Nexus or Sirun for short.  The name comes from two  streets that cross, Siler and Rufina.  It calls itself a creative innovation district” and is anchored by the hugely popular arts project Meow Wolf, the Disneyland of Santa Fe.  In Sirun, you will find all manner of the arts, including a circus school and small “black box” theatres, perfect for intimate shows.

We attended one of these recently at Teatro Paraguas, translated as “umbrella theatre“ in that it hosts guest productions in addition to its own Spanish language and Latino plays.  On this occasion we saw a troupe called The New Mexico’s Actor’s Lab perform the play “November”, a comedy  by David Mamet.  If you saw it you would not be surprised if you were told that it was written last week but in fact it was written in 2007 and opened on Broadway in January of 2008, playing for 6 months to mixed reviews. 

One of the ads for the show starts, “So, a lesbian, a Native American and a turkey lobbyist walk into the White House...”  The characters are indeed the president, his chief of staff and speech writer (the lesbian), the man trying to convince the president to pardon a turkey (no, 2 turkeys) before Thanksgiving and a Native American (formerly known as an Indian).

The President, his speech writer and the turkey lobbyist

The action, as it were, takes place in the oval office, the incumbent president is determined to get a second term.  As the play starts out:

President: (Charles E. Smith): “Can these numbers be right?  These numbers can’t be right.
Chief of Staff: (Archer): “They’re right”
President:  “Why, Why we won the first time, Archie.  Four scant years.  Why have they turned against me now?”
Chief of Staff:  “Because you’ve fucked everything up you’ve touched.”


President: “What is it about me that people don’t like?”
Chief of Staff: “That you’re still here.”

Sound familiar?  How timely or in this case prescient can a theatre piece be?

The comedy continues:

David Mamet clearly keeps a tight rein on his material but one can find a few clips on line in English and other languages.  It becomes very clear that any director of the play can handle the same material in many different ways.  I was sorry that the actor playing the president didn’t play it a little more Trumpian but I found out that the director decided that the audience would figure that out for themselves.  I did know Campbell Martin, who played the  turkey lobbyist, personally since he trains me in Pilates. He had his own band in New York, was on Broadway in various plays, then went to work internationally for a bank and finally came to Santa Fe as a Pilates trainer. Happily for us he appears, every once in a while, in the theatre here.  At one point in the play he embellished the indications in the script with the permission of the director.  The instruction is that the Turkey lobbyist goes after the President.  Campbell is suddenly running across the stage and dives headlong, sliding across the president’s desk and grabbing him until he is pulled off by his chief of staff.

The play continues with the president making one gaffe after the other.  After agreeing to marry his lesbian speech writer to her significant other though he has been told repeatedly that (at that time) it was illegal, she writes him the following speech but he keeps going off script. You can be sure that all the bleeps in this clip are not bleeped on stage:

While some critics at the time said the language was used to cover a lack of writing ability, no one would ever think so today.  Less than a decade later and so much has changed, and yet it is just a matter of degree.  Personally, I hope this play is put on in every city, town and village until 2020.  At this point it will play in Santa Fe for just this week, Thursday through Sunday.