National Performance Network > News > NPN Partner Sandglass Responds to the Senator from Arizona

NPN Partner Sandglass Responds to the Senator from Arizona

Posted: Friday, July 24th, 2015 at 12:37 pm in News

In June of 2015, Arizona Senator John McCain released a report titled America’s Most Wasted in which he detailed what he considered to be the fiscal year’s most pork-laden, wasteful uses of taxpayer dollars. McCain hoped that the 18-page document will “help the American people demand an end to wasteful government spending once and for all.” It’s not at all surprising to see NEA funding included in such a list, but we didn’t expect the senator from Arizona to single out NPN Partner Sandglass Theater for their annual Puppets in the Green Mountains Festival, and, in particular, their presentation of the NPN Creation Fund work Paul Zaloom’s White Like Me: A Honky Dory Puppet Show. NPN reached out to Sandglass Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director Eric Bass for comment. While Eric was on tour in Germany, he sent this response.

Response to Senator McCain

To be honest, the temptation to respond with unbridled sarcasm is strong. One would like to say that there is no need to fund puppet theater, because it is an art form so often associated with children and children don’t vote. Or one would like to address Senator McCain’s disdain for Paul Zaloom’s White Like Me, which Sandglass’ Puppets in the Green Mountains festival is presenting. White Like Me is a show about white privilege. One would like to say that a man who revealed in his 2008 election campaign that he has seven homes would hardly consider this a fit subject to fund. Besides, white privilege is, essentially, a redundant expression. In a culture in which these words have become synonymous, who would want to fund redundancy?

But, frankly, after the first few minutes of getting high on sarcasm, we can all settle down to some practical, even civil dispute. Well, civil on our part, anyway. We need to invite Senator McCain to our festival. We don’t expect him to come, but we need to make our invitation serious and be prepared for him to accept. It’s in everyone’s interest. The festival, which has a long history, is dedicated to international cultural exchange and to the advancement and development of a highly inventive branch of theater. We are not, in fact, a festival of children’s theater, although we also present a number of performances for young audiences, this year including shows from Mexico and Cuba. Since 1997 we have presented about 75 different companies from five continents. We have developed a community base for this festival, with significant community support. In addition, we have now given the festival a new focus: under the sub-title “Walking to the Borders,” the festival now features work that addresses issues of “otherness” and “marginalization” in our culture, and includes workshops and dialogues that pair artists with activists to openly discuss the relationship between art and these pressing issues. Our public is invited to join in these dialogues, and to talk about immigration, race, gender, disability, or any other of our social concerns that drive us to make relevant theater. Among our festival guests will be Shura Wallin from Green Valley Samaritans, an organization that helps to rescue migrants from the Arizona deserts. We cannot imagine a more fervent dialogue than one in which Senator McCain would be present.

But, truth be told, I suspect that Senator McCain is not even responding to the potential heat of this dialogue, or any other. I suspect that we are merely a sound bite, chosen by one of his aides and fed into the political pipeline to rally the neo-cons and shame the senators, congressmen and congresswomen who really do understand that the arts are vital to our society. I think we are, for the senator from Arizona, mostly a stereotype with which he can play the game of self-righteousness, and win some votes among those who have – or dream of having – as much real estate as he does. Not that I have a problem with real estate. Theaters need homes, just like some of our senators. 

Senator McCain, I would be happy to put sarcasm aside. A serious and respectful invitation is on the way to you.

Eric Bass, Sandglass Theater

Sandglass made good on that promise. You can read Eric’s formal invitation to Senator McCain here, and a Brattleboro Reformer interview with Co-Founder Inez Zeller Bass here.




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