This weekend in the arts: Diana Benavidez at Athenaeum Art Center; "Many Happy Returns" at Light Box Theater; "Small Acts" at City Gallery; Camarada at the Mingei; an open house at The Conrad and Backyard Renaissance's production of "Abigail's Party."
Diana Benavidez: 'Text Me When You Get Home'
Piñatas are border artist Diana Benavidez's "preferred medium," merging the traditional Mexican party accessory with something more disruptive, or a political or social statement. In a new solo show at the Athenaeum Art Center in Logan Heights, Benavidez explores the little rituals women or non-cis men perform — or endure — in order to feel safe. The exhibition is called "Text Me When You Get Home."
"Every time I leave my friend's house, she's always telling me, 'Text me when you get home,' because that's a really common thing that we do as women to feel that someone's waiting for you if something happens," Benavidez said.
In the show, ten piñatas represent a variety of objects and symbols that reflect the decisions and actions women take to feel safer being alone in public, or out after dark — like the way women hold keys in a certain way to use as a weapon if needed.
"I've spent, I don't know, hundreds of dollars buying objects like keychain mace to feel somewhat protected. But other than those simple objects that we transform into self-defense weapons, there's also that spiritual aspect that some women rely on," Benavidez said.
One piñata takes the shape of a set of brass knuckles, another looks like a bra made of bombs with the phrase "ponte trucha" written across the cups. Benavidez said that "ponte trucha" means "be aware," but she said the literal translation from Spanish is more like "wear a trout."
"Which makes no sense, but trouts are hard to catch. So it's along those lines: be clever, aware of your surroundings," she said.
Details: On view Mar. 12 through May 13, 2022 with an opening reception Saturday, Mar. 12 from 5-8 p.m. Gallery hours are Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment. Athenaeum Art Center (at Bread and Salt), 1955 Julian Ave., Logan Heights. Free.
Monica Bill Barnes and Company: 'Many Happy Returns'
San Diego Dance Theater welcomes back one of their erstwhile choreographers (and UC San Diego alum) Monica Bill Barnes. Barnes, a celebrated choreographer and dancer, crossed into public media-adjacent stardom (that's totally a thing, right?) with her collaboration with This American Life's Ira Glass in "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host."
For "Many Happy Returns," Barnes and Robbie Saenz de Viteri created a new work that's rooted in the return to the theater — exploring through evolving choreography how we as audiences and performers take those tentative steps back to togetherness. The program is described as a work in progress, transforming at each site and with each audience.
Barnes' performances are always surprising: athletic, emotive and curious, and I especially love the physical comedy she often brings to dance.
Details: Friday, Mar. 11 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Mar. 12 at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Light Box Theater, 2950 Truxton Rd., Ste. 205, Liberty Station. $12-$15.
'Small Acts: The Craft of Subversion'
Visual art, Craft
Art magazine Craft Desert — the brainchild of Kerianne Quick and Adam John Manley — has curated their first art exhibition, at City College's City Gallery. Using craft as a foundation, this exhibition hones in on how both literal and figurative small actions can make an impact. Literal in that these works had to be small enough to fit in a USPS flat rate mailer, and figurative in that the societal concept of crafts is, in general, dismissive or reductive. The artist list is massive (I counted 60!), including Georgina Treviño, Matthew Hebert, Diana Benavídez, Michelle Montjoy, Luciano Pimienta, Carlos Ramirez, Lynn Susholtz, Sasha Koozel Reibstein and tons more.
Details: On view Mar. 12 through Apr. 13, 2022, with a reception Saturday, Mar. 12 from 5-7 p.m. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 4 p.m. City Gallery, City College AH 314, 1508 C. St, downtown. Free.
Camarada at the Mingei: 'Embracing the Wind'
Chamber ensemble group Camarada will perform two works by their own bassist, Andrés Martín: "Resilientes" and the ambitious "Juan Soldado Suite" for solo bass — which is a 20 minute piece, performed by Martín. The title piece, "Embracing the Wind" is a work by composer Robert Paterson.
On flute is Camarada co-founder Beth Ross Buckley, joined on harp by Elena Mashkovtseva, percussion by Matthew Armstrong and bass by Martín. Other pieces include works by Mexican composers Omar Acosta, Arturo Márquez and Ignacio Cervantes. It all takes place at the Mingei's gorgeous new performance space.
Details: Sunday, Mar. 13, 2022 at 5:30 p.m. Mingei International Museum, 1439 El Prado, Balboa Park. $45-$65.
The Conrad Community Arts Open House
Music, Dance, Family
On Sunday, the La Jolla Music Society will open up their space, The Conrad, for a family-friendly program with performances and art-making activities from a variety of local music and art organizations. Catch musical performances from red fish blue fish, Rebecca Jade and Ed Kornhauser, as well as dance from the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, Culture Shock and more. Throughout the day, events will take place in various performance spaces at The Conrad, including the outdoor Wu Tsai QRT.yrd, and you can find a schedule here.
Details: Sunday, Mar. 13, 2022 from 1-4:30 p.m. The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, 7600 Fay Ave., La Jolla. Free.
Backyard Renaissance: 'Abigail's Party'
Local theater company Backyard Renaissance presents "Abigail's Party," Mike Leigh's 1977 play. It's about an image-obsessed couple hosting a gathering for their neighbors — what the theater refers to as a "cocktail party from hell." Set in 1970s England, this production is directed by Rosina Reynolds and stars Francis Gercke, Jessica John, Carter Piggee, Liliana Talwatte and Michelle Marie Trester.
Details: Through Mar. 19, 2022. This weekend's showtimes are Thursday, Friday and Saturday Mar. 10-12, 2022 at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m. (industry night). Tenth Ave. Theater, 930 10th Ave., downtown. $18-$40.
More theater: Listen to my interview with playwright Tony Meneses and director Eddie Torres from The Old Globe's production of "El Borracho." Shows this weekend are Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
For more arts events, or to submit your own, visit the KPBS/Arts calendar.