Westmont presents a bilingual play by senior theater major diana small to audiences on campus and in the community
Families gather at La Casa de la Raza, a community center on the east side of Santa Barbara, eating churros and listening to a trio play Mexican folk music. Westmont students start to trickle in, and it’s a full house by the time everyone sits down. They’ve come to see “Muéveme. Muévete,” a new bilingual play by senior Diana Small, directed by Professor Mitchell Thomas, who chairs the theater arts department.
Diana began shaping the play a year ago, researching the genre of magical realism popular in Mexico decades ago that has reemerged in contemporary theater. In September she started working with Lila Rose Kaplan, a playwright and artist-in-residence at Westmont, and in November she gathered actors to read through a rough draft of the script. “It was like a sketch,” she says, “Then I had to boldly put the paint on the canvas.”
The finished play tells the story of Aideth, a Chicana cannery worker in mid-century California with a family history of travel and abandonment. The title translates to “Move Me, Move You.” Aideth lives with the ghosts of her two virgin aunts, who offer their own ideas about what she should do. The plot takes shape around Aideth’s interaction with Fay, the Caucasian wife of the cannery owner.
In planning the production with Diana, Thomas envisioned the play as a point of connection among diverse communities. “The strong Latino community in Santa Barbara is an integral component of the culture, history and future of the city,” he says. “Ultimately we aim to make the theatre a space where creators and audience members can discover connection and community in an increasingly fragmented world.” With the help of Westmont administrators he secured a grant from Montecito Bank & Trust, making it possible to perform at La Casa de la Raza with free admission for everyone. The play also appeared in Westmont’s Porter Theatre.
“Performing at La Casa couldn’t have been more different from performing at Westmont,” said Sarah Halford ’09. “I was very aware of my race and the race of my character. I had a different connection with this new audience. That kind of first-hand education is more powerful than any lecture.”
“You could hear laughter coming from different parts of the audience when jokes were in English or in Spanish,” Diana says. A double major in English and theater arts, she found playwriting a good way to connect her interests. This summer she will work with the Lit Moon Theater Company to develop a new play based on H.G. Wells’ “First Men on the Moon.”
Diana ended her impressive college career by sharing the honor of top graduate in theater arts with Halford and receiving the Dave Dolan Award for raising awareness of social and spiritual needs of the community.