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Use of ‘prop’ gun during poem was unacceptable

I was appalled at the uncalled for, senseless, shocking and utterly inappropriate menacing display of a very real-appearing large black pistol by an actor during his performance of a poem at the April 1 SOMOS (Society of the Muse of the Southwest) event in the Taos Arts Center.

Bill Nevins

Bill Nevins

This actor ran about the audience waving his “fake” firearm in audience members’ faces. There was no warning given. The “fake” firearm display and audience-menacing was all recorded on cellphone video by an audience member. No one in authority at this event had the presence of mind to halt the performance and redirect this wayward “actor,” alas. Fortunately no one was hurt physically, though there was shock and distress among at least some audience members.

The SOMOS event curator and the SOMOS executive director have since stated to me that the pistol was a “prop” and this display was unrehearsed and unexpected, but they also stated that the actor who waved the “prop” firearm intended it for theatrical effect “to illustrate a poem about a sea captain high on drugs who threatened his crew.”

(This seems an odd choice of a poem subject in our current gun-violence climate, but even given that choice, why must a poem be “illustrated” so literally in a crowded performance hall? If the poem were about fire, would the actor have set the building on fire to “illustrate” his chosen text? I am puzzled by this explanation.)

Even in the context of April Fools Day, this was outrageous, insensitive and unacceptable. It should never be repeated at any public performance, in jest, or otherwise.

I myself have lost a most dear family member to hostile gunfire, and I myself have also in years past been personally menaced by gun-wielding criminals. I see this as no joke.

I also have long experience hosting and performing in poetry and theater events. I am a dues-paying SOMOS member as well as the curator and host of a Poetry and Prose performance series in Angel Fire. I hosted poetry performance series in Albuquerque for many years including the long-running Resolana series at South Broadway Cultural Center. We never pointed guns at the audience at these performances, even when the recitations touched on gun-related subjects.

This seems like stating the obvious, but the following needs to be said, nonetheless.

Guns, even fake, “toy,” starter or unloaded guns, and poetry performances do not mix. Any discussion on this? For the record, there are to be no guns displayed, even in jest, at any literary events which I curate and sponsor. Period.

And I intend not to attend any events where guns are flashed about in a foolish manner, nor to support any literary or theatrical organizations which encourage or even permit such dangerous and irresponsible public behavior.

I look forward, as a SOMOS member, to some public statement on this matter from the Board of Society of the Muse of the Southwest of Taos.

Bill Nevins is a poet and literary events organizer and dues-paying SOMOS member. He lives in Angel Fire and Albuquerque.




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