BWW Previews: WHO KNOWS WHAT YOU ARE at Community Arts Workshop

Marie Ponce and Paige Tautz, present Who Knows What You Are, a new work born from the depths of pandemic lockdown.

By: Mar. 16, 2022
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BWW Previews: WHO KNOWS WHAT YOU ARE at Community Arts Workshop

My first introduction to Diana Lynn Small's work was at Westmont in 2015, where two of her plays were produced with student actors. Mad and a Goat, especially, was a wild ride full of surprises and insanity (and biscuits!), and since then I've been excited about more work from this talented theater artist. This month, Small, along with local collaborators Marie Ponce and Paige Tautz, present Who Knows What You Are, a new work born from the depths of pandemic lockdown.

In the absence of live theater, Small depended on her artistic proclivities to remain, as she says, "expressive and purposeful." While many of us, theater fans and practitioners included, lost momentum during the pandemic, Small was awarded a grant to curate community mythmaking events. Small, Ponce, and Tautz have partnered with other local artists and artisans to produce free mythmaking workshops to perpetuate the arts of story creation and storytelling. From these seminars evolved Who Knows What You Are, the finale performance showcasing work developed throughout the workshops. An original song cycle that incorporates theater, music, and film, this production depicts the birth of the world, "in a mythic, surreal way." It features female protagonists whose stories are told via myth logic. "I wanted to write a creation myth to help understand why things are the way they are from my point of view," says Small. "So I leaned into the image systems that were guiding me and resisted serving a "well-made-play" narrative structure that would tame my impulses."

This production, which will take place at the Community Arts workshop in late March/early April, features original music by Small. The music, in the vein of indie/pop/rock, came first, during the lockdown. "I shared the questions I was exploring with my collaborators. "Can we work on a show together exploring myth narratives that feature female violence and suffering and give voice to these female characters?" So, Marie and Paige would offer up ideas...stories that influenced their childhood or young adulthood and I would use those to write songs." Small continues: "In many ways, the songs are the shadow-side of the show's themes, a fed-up, empowered voice that's had enough of being pushed around."

Before the pandemic, Small spent several years studying theology at a seminary in Austin, Texas. During this time, her creative focus was exploring stories of violence in the bible, particularly violence against women, and how that translated into social justification of "suffering for a 'greater good'". The existential question that materialized with this exploration was: When we give meaning and purpose to suffering, are we encouraging preventable suffering to persist? "This is popularly known in christian theology around the idea "Jesus had to die in order for you to be saved for your sins." First of all, this is just one way to approach these New Testament narratives, it's not the way to approach them and I'll say that it's a dangerous and abusive framework to use and to make a society out of. There is so much danger in justified suffering and one is the amount of women who endure domestic violence and abuse being told by their religious leaders that this suffering is a part of life and their ability to endure it is part of their christian calling... I wonder how much suffering could be prevented if we did not make a move to justify it, even through lofty, poetic, feel-good means. Let's change endings and stop justifying the means."

The performance of Who Knows What You Are will run at CAW March 24-April 2. "I believe in a Santa Barbara audience that will show-up for experimental, strange live art," says Small. "I am happy to be here."

Who Knows What You Are
March 24, 25, 26, 31; April 1, 2
8pm in the Assembly Room at the CAW (Community Arts Workshop)