High melo­drama


Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Jen­nifer Levin I The New Mex­i­can

Santa Fe Play­house presents The Bridges of Santa Fe County

Pasatiempo: Can you ex­plain the ti­tle? What bridge are you talk­ing about?

Primm: The bridge that crosses the lit­tle ar­royo be­tween one side of Fort Marcy Park and the other has been con­demned. They have to reroute all the foot traf­fic this year. The prob­lem our char­ac­ters face is that Fi­esta might be can­celed be­cause there’s no bridge to Zo­zo­bra, so what are they go­ing to do? Pasa: Those are some high stakes.

Irv­ing: It gets to serve as a metaphor for crum­bling in­fra­struc­ture ev­ery­where.

Pasa: Usu­ally when you think of bridges, you think of cross­ing over wa­ter, but in this case it’s over a dry ditch.

Primm: Well, I’m afraid of La Llorona. This is a per­pet­ual fear for me, see­ing as how I live in Santa Fe, but I can’t speak for ev­ery­one.

Irv­ing: If you’re not afraid, you’re not pay­ing at­ten­tion. Pasa: Vaughn, as a new­bie to melo­drama, what have you learned?

Irv­ing: The au­di­ence is a char­ac­ter. It’s not just in­ter­ac­tive — the au­di­ence ac­tu­ally has lines. We ex­pect them to cheer and boo and hiss, to fol­low that lead. And the ac­tors speak to the au­di­ence not just as an aside, like in Shake­speare or Greek theater, but ac­tu­ally ad­dress the au­di­ence di­rectly to make sure they un­der­stand that they’re com­ing on this jour­ney with you in a more ac­tive way than in a nor­mal play.

Pasa: In melo­drama there is al­ways a hero and a vil­lain. Who are the good guys and bad guys this year?

Primm: That’s a tricky ques­tion to an­swer. Last year we had five vil­lains. One of the ideas we had go­ing in this year is that the vil­lain doesn’t know he’s the vil­lain, and there is no hero. Pasa: That’s quite a twist on the for­mula.

Primm: Well, we have a vil­lain­ess. Her name is Corella de Villa. The ac­tress who plays her is here …

Katie John­son: I play Corella de Villa. She’s a rich out-of-towner who comes in and says, “You’re do­ing this and this wrong, and here’s how you should fix it my way.” As Santa Fe does with these kinds of peo­ple, the res­i­dents chew me up and spit me out.

Irv­ing: She has hench­men — Sher­iff Headly Lis­pero and Deputy F. Dusty Win­der­ton, who is played by Cliff Rus­sell. He’s been in some­thing like 15 melo­dra­mas. And tech­ni­cally we do have a hero, but he’s not a stock hero at all.

Pasa: What are some of the other sto­ry­lines, aside from the con­demned bridge?

Primm: One of the writ­ers re­ally had a bone to pick with the Santa Fe Park­ing Di­vi­sion. There are ter­rif­i­cally awk­ward jokes about the gen­eral plan to make up $15 mil­lion in lost rev­enue by col­lect­ing park­ing fines. The play is set about 100 years ago, so an­other thing that’s hap­pen­ing is that the tele­phone has just come to Santa Fe.

Irv­ing: That is painstak­ingly his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate, though there’s some cre­ative anachro­nism in­volved. There are also some com­plaints about the wi-fi waves dis­turb­ing our health and hap­pi­ness. You might also have no­ticed we’re in a na­tional elec­tion year, so no spoil­ers, but that might play a role in the show. Some im­por­tant na­tional is­sues come home to meet some im­por­tant Santa Fe is­sues. There is a lot of civil dis­obe­di­ence. Ev­ery­one has a cause, but their causes aren’t nec­es­sar­ily aligned very well. There are a lot of pas­sion­ate peo­ple, pas­sion­ate about very spe­cific pas­sions. Santa Fe has a touchy his­tory, and that comes up.

Primm: Things snow­ball. One protest leads to an­other crack­down leads to an­other protest. I’m not sure I want to say this but … ev­ery­one in Santa Fe winds up in jail.

Pasa: What are some of the is­sues peo­ple are protest­ing? Are you go­ing to ad­dress the Na­tive Lives Mat­ter protests that hap­pened last year at Fi­es­tas?

Irv­ing: That was one of our inspirations for all the protests in the show. We want to do what we can to heal those rifts with hu­mor, even if it’s just a chance to say, “Here are the things. Let’s laugh and have fun to­gether while not ig­nor­ing the fact that there’s ten­sion and things could be bet­ter, and we could re­late to each other in more hu­mane ways — with hu­mor in­stead of drama, if you will.” Pasa: Is there any­thing you can tell us about the writ­ers? Please?

Primm: They’re re­ally just a bunch of slovenly drunk­ards. Coura­geously anony­mous slovenly drunk­ards. Pasa: Are they funny?

Primm: Yes. Af­ter the in­ter­view, Pasatiempo in­ter­cepted Cliff Rus­sell on his way to re­hearsal. He was happy to talk about his role and was quite a bit more forth­com­ing than his di­rec­tors.

“In other melo­dra­mas I’ve been Jorge R.R. Martinez, a gay bar­ber, and an eighty-year-old third grader who can’t read,” he said. “This year I play a very old deputy who is savvy but not too savvy, and I get dis­guised as Don­aldo Harumph. I’ve been writ­ing some choice things so that hope­fully peo­ple will know that he’s an id­iot. I’ve got some new stuff for tonight that I just wrote.”

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