“Some things do manage to penetrate all the false heroics, all the flimsy ideology. We’re suddenly stung by our duty to a higher purpose. Our natural loyalties fall in line and we’re amazed how simple it is to honor our true heritage.”
So says Welch, the uber-American operative in Sam Shepard’s play “The God of Hell.” The speech comes near the end, when Welch has ostensibly taken control of a modest Wisconsin dairy farm and begun molding it to his own super-patriotic devices. Shepard’s play is a surreal political satire suggesting the current political administration has forced a kind of fascism on the populace.
There appear to be some in our community who are less than tolerant of Mr. Shepard’s message and the B Street production, alhough it's also possible they're just not happy with the play's title and what they think it references.
Twice in the last two weeks, in the early morning hours, windows have been smashed in the front lobby of the theater where “The God of Hell” poster hangs.
“We’re debating whether the vandalism is in response to the show. But twice since the show opened...does raise questions,” says Buck Busfield, B Street's artistic director.
Busfield says this particular show has generated the most audience response in the form of letters and messages of any show he’s produced in over a decade of producing over a hundred shows. With letters, the communication is fairly straightforward. “We don’t like this play” or “We’re glad you’re doing this kind of work.”
But what does a brick through the window mean besides steady work for the glass repair man? Don’t do plays criticizing the government?
To use the character Welch's verbage - does brick/rock throwing fall under false heroics or natural heritage?
I’m not a political scientist, but it seems to me that one of the points of our country’s origin was to have a system that is open to question and criticism.
Art and artists, whether we agree or disagree with them, are necessary elements of that process.
The most intersting reponse to me is the patron who wrote Busfield saying he didn't want to see the play but included a check with his letter because he wants the theater to keep doing what it does.
-- Marcus Crowder