One of Santa Barbara’s not-so-hidden strengths as an arts community is the range and accomplishments of the young theater artists trained at UCSB, SBCC, and Westmont College. Westmont in particular, thanks to the leadership of professors John Blondell and Mitchell Thomas, has been home to a brand of contemporary performance that’s both avant-garde and grounded in the canon, global in its influences and local in its orientation. This weekend, September 16-19, one of the Westmont program’s most intriguing graduates, Diana Lynn Small, brings her latest play, Oh, Thank You, to the performance space at the Community Arts Workshop on Garden Street.
As a playwright, Small’s star has risen steadily since she left the West Coast for a graduate degree from the prestigious Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas, Austin. Frankly feminist in approach, her work explores the ways in which women’s lives are shaped by gendered expectations that often lie beneath the surface of seemingly mundane concerns and situations. In Oh, Thank You, Small puts three young women in a classic fight for survival. Lost in the woods, they must become new beings in order to save their lives. One character chooses to become a Woman, another selects the identity of an Animal, and the third takes on the role of a Sibyl. Redescribing the standard female coming-of-age experience as a choice, rather than a “natural” course of action, Oh, Thank You offers actors and the audience an opportunity to consider what lies outside the gendered roles women typically play, both onstage and in real life.
The cast — Paige Tautz, Marie Ponce, and Heather Johnson — all have experience with the Lit Moon Theatre’s daring style of physical theater, so you can expect a dynamic production full of surprises. Artist James Hapke contributes the design of the piece. Performances are at 8 p.m., Thursday-Sunday, September 16-19. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit sbcaw.org.
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