Feats of political theater in Santa Fe

Twisting and twirling from an aerial fabric suspended 15 feet above the floor, 10-year-old Aneena Clinger was feeling alive.

“It’s pretty fun,” she said of the acrobatics, part of a performance piece she helped create for Wise Fool New Mexico’s Winter Circus Cabaret, which opened Saturday at the troupe’s Siler Road studio and continues with an afternoon show Sunday. “I don’t think it’s scary at all.”

Aneena’s Parent Trap-inspired piece is about two kids from broken families who use aerial acrobatics to try to help their parents reconnect during the holiday season.

“In the end, we learn that the holidays are all about family,” she said.

Wise Fool, founded in Santa Fe almost 20 years ago as both a performing arts and social justice advocacy organization, combines clowning and circus artistry with storytelling in its popular productions, some of which have become holiday traditions — such as the Circus Luminous show held at the Lensic Performing Arts Center each year on the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Shows often address political and social issues, said artistic director Amy Christian and board member Kate Marco.

“Circus is a medium through which we can speak to these issues,” Christian said. “How do we look at those issues through the eyes of the clown, with raw, vulnerable compassion … and understanding?”

The group’s approach has ancient roots. The term “wise fool” comes from the medieval tradition of court jesters using humor to address controversial political topics without fear of retribution from the king.

Occasionally, however, the serious themes of a Wise Fool production will catch audience members off-guard.

Last month’s Circus Luminous show, called Clown Alchemy, drew criticism from a few parents of schoolchildren who watched the performance during a field trip to the Lensic.

Michelle Sisneros, the mother of two Nava Elementary School students, ages…

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