A Creative Mind in Wilderness: Bringing a New Element to Theatre

By Kayleen Schenck

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Sometimes when an opportunity comes knocking at your door, you grunt and grumble in frustration because you have to pause your binge on Netflix, dog-ear a particularly good book mid chapter or disrupt whatever you have deemed paramount in that moment. Life and distractions become routine and interruptions – newness – can be unwelcome. Whatever is knocking on my door shall be dealt with swiftly. “Nobody’s home!”

The New Mexico Wild Wilderness Ranger position was not such an instance.

I paced back and forth in front of the door, awaiting the knock from an opportunity that would bring me outside to the Wilderness. Peaking under the door jam, I saw the shadows of approaching hiking boots, and with the proceeding knock, signed on with eagerness to a position I knew would be educational, rewarding and full of the unexpected.

Looking east from Crest Trail towards Monjeau Peak – Tobi Nickel

Shakespeare told us that “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” As an actor and a director, I value the stage as an impervious, magical space where truths can be unleashed and life make sense. During this time as a Ranger, I am learning that Wilderness shares many of these same qualities, but with a few key differences.

1). On this stage we are not the spectacle. The players aren’t as important as the setting.

On stage an actor commands the attention of an audience and the whole show thrives on the energy of but a few, with successes marked by the audible roar of applause. Out in the White Mountain and Capitan Wildernesses, I have seen no spotlights but a sun rising and setting, no adorned crowds but my fellow boot clad stewards and recreationalists and absolutely no applause: it has been wonderful.

NMWild Wilderness Ranger Kayleen Schenk holding a soon-to-be surveyed Sacramento Mountain Salamander – Ben Nash 

2). The theatre is practically impervious. Wilderness is not.

Theatre thrives from human creativity and experience. Theatre as we know it may very well be dependent on our existence. Humans need theatre and theatre needs humans. A world lacking both would detriment neither. On the other hand, Mother Nature can put on dazzling shows all on her own; but in our presence be thwarted. She is not impervious to our existence and must be constantly advocated and protected from those advocating and protecting. Performing stewardship out in Wilderness can be rewarding beyond measure, for there may not be applause and crowds or the immediate satisfaction of a brilliant act, but your performance has a more lasting effect.

Crest of the Capitan Mountains at sunrise as viewed from Capitan Peak – Tobi Nickel

The most notable thing the theatre and the wilderness have in common is that witnessing them reveals truths and makes life make sense.

Kayleen is a Wilderness Ranger for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance on the Smokey Bear Ranger District of the Lincoln National Forest, stewarding the White Mountain and Capitan Mountains Wilderness Areas. For questions about these special places, volunteering, and/or NMWA, email kayleen@nmwild.org.

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