Cir­cus Lu­mi­nous,

Pasatiempo - - Onstage This Week -

writes. “Their ink-spat­tered feet were draw­ing the beau­ti­ful pat­tern of ideas.”

At a re­cent re­hearsal, af­ter the samba-danc­ing stilt walk­ers had fin­ished a run-through and were of­fered a breather, the per­form­ers loped around the room like gi­raffes on a hot af­ter­noon be­fore head­ing to perches along the walls, where they could sit on the edges of mats, eight feet up. The next scene fea­tured per­former Nike­sha Breeze play­ing a re­bel­lious vil­lager and us­ing dance and gym­nas­tics to take on the gi­ant sol­diers who were try­ing to catch her. Then came Jas­mine Quin­sier, demon­strat­ing the poi dance. Matt McCorkle, also known as Poki the clown, came next to prac­tice his mime act, a comic piece with an um­brella and a lot of imag­i­nary wind.

Diaz was born in Ar­gentina but lived in Chile un­til the 1970s, when the dic­ta­tor­ship of Au­gusto Pinochet cre­ated a re­pres­sive artis­tic cli­mate. He is one of the coun­try’s lead­ing ex­per­i­men­tal play­wrights from that time and once wrote a play called The Tooth­brush that used a cir­cus at­mos­phere to ex­plore com­mu­ni­ca­tion. He lives in Spain now.

Pol­i­tics are at the heart of Wise Fool, which has roots in a San Fran­cisco art-and-theater col­lec­tive that built gi­ant pup­pets for po­lit­i­cal protests decades ago. In New Mex­ico, the group branched out with a mis­sion to sup­port women artists and be­gan teach­ing cir­cus arts, pup­petry, and theater in schools through­out North­ern New Mex­ico. A slo­gan the com­pany uses on pro­mo­tional ma­te­ri­als is “Chang­ing Lives, One Cir­cus at a Time.” One of Wise Fool’s most suc­cess­ful pro­grams is based in the small vil­lage of Peñasco, where a 1940s-era movie hall has been trans­formed into a com­mu­nity space. Here the hoop-a-loop girls re­hearse, there is a sum­mer cir­cus camp for girls, and af­ter-school pro­grams and work­shops for adults are of­fered through­out the year. Tarin, who works in Peñasco as a teach­ing artist, said the space is ex­tremely pop­u­lar in the com­mu­nity, with din­ner cabarets, con­certs, kids’ recitals, and high-school plays also tak­ing place there.

In Santa Fe, just days be­fore open­ing night, the cast of 50 was fi­nally be­ing brought to­gether af­ter months of sep­a­rate re­hearsals. The town criers, ca­naries, news re­porters, sol­diers, gen­er­als, and vil­lagers gath­ered at the Wise Fool space, dec­o­rated with col­or­ful banners and pup­pets. Break­dancers were min­gling with hoop-a-loop girls, stilt walk­ers prac­ticed their samba steps, and ac­ro­bats were warm­ing up with hand­stands. Hinckley and Tarin sat at a ta­ble and seemed to be call­ing the shots with a par­tic­u­larly re­laxed, fa­mil­ial style. The band was missing a player, but Guerra had no prob­lems keep­ing things to­gether.

Hinckley ad­mit­ted that some lib­er­ties had been taken with Diaz’s story, not the least of which was cast­ing a young fe­male beat­boxer to play the lit­tle old man with the ca­naries. Also, at the Len­sic, the story ends with a poem by Maya An­gelou. The stage will be filled with the en­tire cast — all the ac­ro­batic vil­lagers who have been given back their books, their words, their lan­guage. They will look up at the night sky, where stars have be­come tiny letters, scat­tered across the black­ness.

“It’s a won­der­ful story,” said Hinckley. “Not too di­dac­tic. With a lot of heart.”

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