Not quite hippies, civil rights activists, or new-leftists, The Diggers emerged in the mid 1960s from the San Francisco Mime Troupe with their own unique flavor and perspective on social change. With roots in the bohemian/underground art/theater scene and support for the ideas of other social activists of the time, the Diggers were radical change agents in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. They took their name from the original English Diggers (1649-50) who had a vision of society free from private property, and all forms of buying and selling. Utilizing performance and guerrilla theatre tactics, the San Francisco Diggers intended to create their ideal world and act it out in their everyday experiences. The Diggers envisioned a free society–free food, free, housing, free entertainment, free medical care. The idea being that if everything is free, there’s no need to work for a living, and people are free to live the lives they want to live, without restraint. By acting out an ideal life (or “life acting), that ideal became reality.
“Using theatre as a weapon the Diggers abandoned the stage and claimed the streets.” – Ron Davis, Founder of the San Francisco Mime Troupe
Links of Interest:
- The San Francisco Diggers by Jean Pierre Zern is an hour-long documentary providing insight into the world of the Diggers movement in San Francisco, 1966.
“What we did was to create a theatre that described everything being free, hoping that would lead to a social movement.”
Footage about the San Francisco Diggers from a PBS documentary The Summer Of Love
“The Street theater that we had been doing was now going to be acted out as an alternative society where food, shelter, entertainment, was going to be free without ideology.”
“Culture is much more important than politics. Let’s just start getting people living the way they want to live.”
“Let’s make the world that you imagine real by acting it out. And if you can act it out, it’s real”