Digital Arts Festival Dives into Dance and Drama

By Steven Libowitz   |   April 9, 2020

Center Stage Theater (CST), the black-box venue that makes itself available to the community through largely low-cost rentals, is also stepping up its game in perhaps an even bigger way by offering a new streaming service every night through the end of the month. The segments will run each night at 7 pm, also starting with an interview followed by a performance piece that could range from a video of a show from the past, excerpts of a recent shelter-in-place performance, pictures of visual arts, or the streaming of a short film. The interviews will cover the artist’s typical creative process and/or how they are coping and creating in the new socially-distant reality, perhaps including the evolution of a specific work.

The idea was to both provide an outlet for artists of all types and introduce CST’s audiences to the artists, explained Teri Ball, the theater’s executive director.

“Artists need to create, but they also need to have a place to show what they’re doing, and to connect with an audience,” she said. “But lots of people were already doing these performances. We thought it would be interesting to put the emphasis on the artist themselves. Audiences always wonder about how a dance performance or a theatrical show gets put together – how the idea turns into the final piece. These crazy times we’re living in is giving us a chance to let people into what goes on behind the scenes in the process more than usual.”

The concept was changing even at the last minute as the first segment was being put together last Monday, with the original idea of just a performance turning into the interview preview that was to have been conducted by CST board members. But technology alone got in the way, and a single voice made more sense. Especially when that voice was a well-known one in the community, Ball said.

So former longtime local radio news/feature personality Jim Sirianni – it took all of an hour to go from an initial email to a complete agreement on Monday afternoon, Ball said – will be handling all the interviews and moderating the programs.

“The interviews are taking on a larger element than we had first thought because it’s become about sharing in the artistic process, letting the audience into what and how the artist is doing what they do and how that process is being affected,” she said.

The Digital Arts Festival launched April 6 with Ali Rybczyk, a contemporary painter and creative freelancer who served as videographer for the latest film from longtime Santa Barbara-based dance filmmaker and choreographer (and CST friend) Robin Bisio.

For the most part, CST is largely letting the artists come to them rather than reaching out, extending an invitation to creators in the community to submit new stories, poems, monologues, dances, songs, short plays, multimedia extravaganzas, and more as well as revitalize things that they’ve already produced. The theater is also still collecting submissions for its popular Personal Stories productions although, of course, performances of the personal, first-person true stories won’t be able to take place in person until after the COVID-19 situation ebbs.

Slated for appearances this week are choreographers L. Taylor Ashton-Biel – who is offering video footage from a collaboration with a senior dance major from Kent State University’s BFA in its performance program that was canceled due to COVID-19 – on Thursday, April 9, and Karyn Laver of the Goleta-based dance studio The Dance Network on Friday, April 10. Nita June from DogStar Theater – whose new production Electric Baby was slated to open at CST during the week that it closed – is due on Saturday, April 11, followed by Matt Tavianini and Michael Andrews from BoxTales on Sunday, April 12. On Monday, April 13, Ninette Paloma from Santa Barbara Dance Center for Aerial Dance will introduce “The Body/Antibody Project” that came about when the studio responded to school closures by inviting its dancers to choreograph 90-second pieces that reflected their emotional state during this surreal time. Samuel Simon, the playwright and performer of The Actual Dance, which was inspired by his wife’s experience with breast cancer, is booked for Tuesday, April 14, followed the next night by Shannon Noel and Staci Burrows of MommyTonk – the musical-comedy duo that finds humor in everyday life from parenting to Target trips to stay at home orders.

The series takes a slight twist next Thursday, April 16, as Juliet Rohde-Brown, the current Chair of the Depth Psychology: Integrative Therapy and Healing Practices specialization program at Pacifica Graduate Institute, offers songs that emerged out of her meditations and dreams that have been sung for meditative purposes at the community gatherings for Mindful Heart’s Solidarity and Compassion project. She added photographs and created videos to go along with the songs.

The streaming segments and the schedule can be accessed on the theater’s new blog page,, which is where you can also find a form to submit a suggestion.


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