Out of the Mud & Ashes

Community Confronts Thomas Fire, Debris Flow in Arts Showcase

<em>Turning Shadow</em> by Robin Bisio and Ethan Turpin
Ethan Turpin

From destruction comes renewal, and from devastation, inspiration. With the communally collaborative Out of the Mud & Ashes, which takes place Saturday, October 6, at the Lobero Theatre, more than a dozen artists and performers from the Santa Barbara and Ventura regions will reflect on the Thomas Fire and mudslides through cathartic works of dance, poetry, visual art, and more.

“These pieces all could be transformational,” said artistic director John Lengsfelder of the “very powerful mix” of performers, photographers, videographers, and storytellers slated for the event. “I want to take people on a journey about the mud and ashes, about what’s happened to our psyche — if the majority of people come out feeling just a little bit better, we’ve been successful. I want people to feel a sense of healing, or that they can connect with the experience in a different way. I think we need it.”

The first showcase of its kind, the evening bloomed from the 2018 New Mythos Artist Grants of Pacifica Graduate Institute’s Opus Archives. Inspired by the archives’ vast Joseph Campbell collection, the research-based grants for depth psychology and mythological studies took on a new purpose following the traumatic disasters of this past winter. The creators of Mud & Ashes, according to Lengsfelder, confront our locality’s tragedies on a more global scale. “Campbell had said that when there’s a new myth, it’s going to be about the planet, not a particular culture. It feels like what we’re experiencing is planetary,” he said.

Ethan Turpin

One piece of note is a collaboration by dancer/choreographer Robin Bisio and filmmaker Ethan Turpin titled Turning Shadow. A dance piece filmed in the burn scar, the work pairs “the juxtaposition of a stark, denuded, poetic landscape with the inevitability of new growth,” said Bisio. “For me, our film is a salve to the wound of loss, with the shadow of darkness turning and changing through the rhythms of dance. … Being on the land itself when we were filming felt like a prayer.”

Choreographer Marco Pinter’s abstract piece, “Gravity,” has dancers willfully strain themselves with heavy weights in the sleeves of their arms and legs, variously passing the load and providing support to one another. Pinter described the piece as “an abstract story … of a community uncovering a transformation from burden into growth and strength. And, as it turns out, heralding a journey to uncover that the burden can transform into an unexpected power.”

The choice of Lobero as venue was deliberate, said Lengsfelder, with its facades having faced the 1925 earthquake. “People’s lives were lost, there was tragic disruption, the city was on the brink, and yet out of that, so much of what we appreciate of Santa Barbara was built,” he said. “We’re all about change here — a lot of S.B. suppresses the present, but obviously we have evolved, and we need to appreciate that even this past was a remake.”

Lengsfelder said audiences should expect the unexpected from the very diverse roster and be prepared for an evening that will confront some of our community’s deepest, most difficult feelings, with a refusal to sugarcoat. “It’s all about the descent into the shadow, and coming back out,” he said. “It’s shattering; it’s raw; it’s the earth; it’s dark; it’s perilous — and yet we have to see our way out. That is what we are trying to do.”


Out of the Mud & Ashes takes place Saturday, October 6, at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.). Call 963-0761 or see lobero.org.


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