top of page

Sam Kerson

Sam Black background-FB.JPG

Sam Kerson was born in North Adams, Mass. in 1946. He is a Leo. His parents were Jacke Kerson and Muriel French. Sam left North Adams when he was 17, November 1963 to experience the US Navy, a misadventure that went on for most of four years, including being present in the eastern Mediterranean for the disastrous, so called, “six day war”. Sam used the GI bill to go to college and studied at Berkshire Community College, especially English Literature with Clara Park and Richard Bannister. Sam was very active as a student and organized the student paper which he edited. He also organized a soccer team and made his first theatre production for the commencement event in 1968; the piece was called Red Tape.

In sixty-nine Sam went to Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont where he was a member of the student council. As a Goddard student, Sam studied Performance with Marc Estrin. This period included a one month workshop in San Francisco with the Dancer’s Workshop and Anna Halprin. This first great art adventure, fighting against the Vietnam War in California with a collective of young people, inspired many later adventures and was remembered by Sam in his novel The Awakening of Baxter Bagley. After college, Sam went directly to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, a change of course that would affect all of his future art efforts. This is where he began to learn Spanish and to understand the real cultural dimensions of the America’s, thanks to the people of Zinacantan and Chamula. Sam’s passion for Latin America continued to expand as he walked over the earth visiting the ancient sites in Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. It was in Peru that Kerson and Norman Briski first met. Norman had just been banished, he would be out of Argentina for 13 years. Sam was exploring the famous old city of Cuzco where Norman was living in exile. By chance they both spent the winter there and they used the time to get to know each other. In ’76 Sam was instrumental in founding Dragon Dance Theatre. He was and continues to be artistic director of Dragon Dance. Once the theatre was established, Norman Briski was able to come to Vermont and teach his ideas about collective creation, which were from the Argentine theatre tradition. Sam has used these ideas during the Dragon Dance Theatre’s entire history. In the early eighties Sam met Robert Fisher, who was also a Goddard alum and had studied Abstract Expressionism with Hans Hoffmann. Sam learned much about visual arts from Robert. The two were friends and neighbors and shared the same drawing models for thirty years until Roberts death in 2007. See Sam’s biography of Robert Fisher, Still Lifes and Street Angels. In the late eighties Sam took his Dragon Dance idea to Nicaragua and thereafter went once a year with a cultural exchange project to Managua or Masaya, until the Sandinistas lost the elections in ‘91. It was from this experience that Sam began studying murals in Mexico city. Spurred by an invitation Sam began painting murals; Todo Sera Mejor in Masaya and later in Vermont, Armed Men at the Gates of Paradise and The Underground Railroad Vermont and the Fugitive Slave, in South Royalton at the Vermont Law school. Sam’s books, Brigadistas and Green Turtle Soup, in which the Goddard art teacher Roy Levin plays an important part, tell much about Sam and Nicaragua. During the nineties Sam directed the great performances of Sol y Luna at Monte Alban, Oaxaca, in collaboration with Louis Cervantes of the theatre group Comparsa and Roberto Villaseñor director of Culturas Populares. This work led to the Pan American Puppetry Arts Institute, a Dragon Dance project, which organized international cultural exchange residencies in Nicaragua, Mexico and Vermont until 2000. At the time of 911, the US disaster of the twin towers, 2001, Sam was directing cultural exchange projects in Mexico; Dia de los Muertos in Queretaro, a giant mask making project in Puebla and a number of productions with the Museo Historico in Jalpan de Serra, in the Sierra Gorda. Early in 2000, Sam met and married the Quebecoise agronomist and artist Katah, and the base of the theatre moved from Vermont to Quebec. In the coming years Sam would direct, and Katah would produce theatre projects in Finland, Slovakia, France, Germany and Italy. The purpose of these projects was to generate shows related to agricultural, pre-christian Goddesses, Demeter was a favorite. They also dramatized early stories such as Erisychthon recounted by Ovid or Psyche and Cupid as related by Apuleius. Sam and Katah also undertook investigations of human migration in Europe, they called their project, Artists as Witness. Some of their experiences are shared in Chronicles of Lesvos. Also based on their experience with immigrants in Europe, and currently in production is the artist book, Exodus which they expect to release in 2022. Once the two were living in Trois-Rivières, Quebec Sam and Katah opened a Dragon Dance print-shop known as Les Ateliers de Créations du Dragon. Sam and Katah were partners, she would be his publisher at her Editions La Plume du Dragon. Their work took a distinct turn towards artist’s books; Persephone Entre deux Mondes, Lemminkainen en Tuonela are examples. Further, they began to publish the narrative books seen on this page and the plays and the novels. But especially they produced together, graphic art books on subjects like the death penalty, the ongoing war in Palestine, our shared nuclear history, and the day of the dead in Oaxaca. They continue to work under the banner of Dragon Dance Theatre, as a theatre and as book makers as writers and as visual and performing artists. S and K in TR, 2021

bottom of page