They say adolescence is the toughest phase of life because it’s when we search for who we are-our identity. But after the teenage tantrums, it seems we spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out what to do with this identity. Do we accept it? Deny it? Change it? A new production, Mueveme, Muevete-Spanish for “Move Me, Move You”-addresses this struggle. The play is the work of young playwright Diana Small, a senior this year at Westmont College. Directed by Mitchell Thomas, Mueveme, Muevete will play at Westmont’s Porter Theatre from February 26-28 and again at La Casa de la Raza March 5-7.
The original work is a bilingual story about Aideth, a 1940s cannery worker. Aideth is a strong Chicana woman striving to get a handle on her family legacy, which she deems both a curse and a blessing. Aideth has ghost aunts who whisper the family secrets to a peach tree. The peaches represent her legacy, as they are then canned and sold to strangers. And though these canned peaches bring in money, providing Aideth’s only means of living, they curse her as they spread family secrets among strangers. In addition to handling the pain of this catch-22, Aideth must also deal with her own personal conflicts. We learn that Aideth is the last woman left in her family, and that before her, all of the family’s women have at some point abandoned their husbands and children. As a result, Aideth fears committing to her man, aware that she could make him and her future children further victims of her family curse. Mueveme, Muevete emphasizes Aideth’s status as a strong woman, yet it also shows how she still struggles with the blessing/curse of her family legacy. How can she break the cycle and move on, without rejecting who she is, without separating from those who gave her life and keep her alive?
As the star of the show, the role of Aideth requires an actor who can take on all of Aideth’s inner turmoil as well as express it onstage. Apparently Anna Lieberman, also a senior at Westmont, was the right fit. Aideth is Lieberman’s first lead role. Her previous appearances in supporting roles include such past Westmont productions as Jane Eyre and (Anon)ymous. Lieberman said her casting was a good match because she believes she has the ability to relate to Aideth. “Aideth has a lot on her plate, and she struggles with her lack of capability because she is not strong enough,” Lieberman said. “Being strong is one thing, but sometimes it’s not enough, and that’s something I got about her.” Lieberman realizes that to an audience, Aideth can easily appear as just a “down on her luck, problematic, depressed character,” so she sees her job as bringing out Aideth’s personality and making her seem like the rounded character she is.
Small wrote Mueveme, Muevete with a more holistic approach in mind, and was not only concerned with Aideth. She began working on the show when director and mentor Mitchell Thomas asked her to write a play for Westmont’s main stage. It only made sense that the play would involve magical realism and a Latino foundation as these were Thomas and Small’s common interests, and the demographics of Santa Barbara would be able to provide Small with abundant material. Magical realism is an artistic genre born in the 1920s in which artists and writers express the irrationality of life through fantastic elements. As Latino magical realism fans, Small and Thomas spent most of last summer reading magical realism plays and novels, researching women in the cannery industry, listening to folktales from Chicano friends, and doing research in the library. While feeding her interest, Small also investigated the more realistic side of the project-the Chicano experience. “One of the biggest challenges was writing the play from a strong Chicana woman’s eyes because I’m white,” Small said. Thus, Mueveme, Muevete approaches two large themes: the more all-encompassing subject of the immigrant experience and the internal struggle with one’s identity and roots. Small confessed that she can’t wait to see the play performed. She hopes her voice as the author has disappeared and the only things left are the characters alive onstage, delivering more questions than answers, because, as she put it, the play is about questions, such as “are we our mothers?”
The second series of performances of Mueveme, Muevete at La Casa de la Raza will be preceded by a community event with mid-century Mexican music playing and churros galore, and with the play starting at 8 p.m. What better way to get to know our identities?
Mueveme, Muevete, directed by Mitchell Thomas and written by Diana Small, will show at Westmont College’s Porter Theatre from February 26-28 and at La Casa de la Raza from March 5-7.