When you say “Dulce” in Pagosa, most of the natives know where you’re talking about and can point the general direction in which the town lies. Some have passed through, stopped for gas and refreshments, passed through on their way to someplace else.
“Lumberton” will get a more perplexed response. The oldtimers know it well, back in the days when the railroad still ran through the town, when lumber was a lucrative industry, when Lumberton was hoppin’. Only three miles from Dulce, if people miss the sign for the town, and the tractor sign that comes after it, they will know it by the scattered houses and trailers in the valleys of the hills and the mesa, and the bell of the old St. Francis church.
For most around here, Dulce, N.M., is not a destination. It is a town nearby, a town on a route to some other place.
What it definitely is not to most people is a place to catch great theater. Yet this Oct. 18, that’s exactly what Dulce will be. For one night only, The Acting Company will present John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” at the Dulce High School theater at 8 p.m. - $15 for adults, $10 for students.
“John Steinbeck stands alone as the 20th Century’s biographer of the worker. He writes of a life that looks beautiful in a photograph and is ugly to inhabit,” director Ian Belknap said, adding, “He knew migrant farm workers that drifted to a dreamy California where fruit was ripe to pick, only to find their dreams scorched in the sun.”
Belknap knows that Steinbeck’s play resonates within the hearts of all humanity, concentrating on elements and desires close to all human life: to want, to love, to fear and to die. However, Belknap thinks that this will have a special resonance for the people in Pagosa Country. The ranching life is not foreign to most, and that is the inspiration and depiction for that. But more than that, Belknap contends that, in our environment, moreso than in a city, the natural elements are never far away: the wide blue sky, the natural springs, rivers, snow-capped mountains. And while Steinbeck didn’t make use of mountains, nature is a major player in this drama. As Belknap said, it is where man turns for healing.
“This production looks, sounds and smells like the worker of 1930s; however, this play could be set yesterday, today or tomorrow. Drive on any stretch of the crossroads of America today the context of our world has changed but our daily life values remain the same as in ‘Of Mice and Men,’” Belknap said.
The play’s set, of Broadway-sized proportion and coming to Dulce all the way from New York City, will incorporate elements of natures to make this special connection between man and the earth all the more pertinent to the audience.
The Acting Company was founded in 1972 by the Oscar-winning actor/producer/director John Houseman and Margot Harley from the first graduating class of the Juilliard School’s Drama Division. Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone, Frances Conroy (“Six Feet Under”), Jeffrey Wright (“Angels in America”) and Rainn Wilson (“The Office”) are some of the company’s alumni.
In honor of its 40th season, and in honor of the author John Steinbeck, the company is going a fall West Coast tour, starting in Santa Fe, moving through New Mexico to Nevada, up the West Coast and into the mountains of Montana.
“We’re celebrating the author, touring the world where he lived,” said Belknap.
The company, cast and crew, Belknap added, are excited to come West and to see the beautiful and often magical country surrounding Pagosa and Dulce.
To become a part of this, to fill this need, to see good theater, “Of Mice and Men” will be performed one night, Oct. 18, at 8 p.m. in the Dulce High School auditorium. For tickets or more information call (575) 759-3252, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to dulcetheater.wordpress.com.