#CoHoSummerfest Week 1
June 15 – 18
Student Loan Debt. Goat Farm Cult. Beer & Biscuits.
MAD & A GOAT is a two-women show about one woman who, to free herself from college debt, joins a Wyoming goat farm she inherits from her occult-leader birth parents. There is seduction. There is beer. There are biscuits. And let’s not forget about the goats.
From fresh local goat cheese at the farmer’s market to goat yoga in a barn, Oregonians love their goats. Back in the good old days (2011) Portland even hosted a charming herd of urban goats on SE 10th and Belmont in a 2-acre meadow that is now home to the oft maligned Goat Blocks apartment building. If you’re among the lovers of spirited, eat-anything, bleating, four-legged friends and don’t mind them mixed with a heavy dose of snark, seduction, cult-leader parents, student loan debt, and beer, Diana Lynn Small’s Mad & a Goat is right up your alley.
Small’s two-woman show, featuring actors Heather Johnson and Paige Tautz, kicks off a stellar CoHo Summerfest with four performances June 15-18. Small, Tautz, and Johnson have honed this bizarrely funny story into an intimate, intricate, synchronized world where biscuits are plentiful and relationships are questionable. Mad & a Goat debuts in Portland following acclaimed performances at the Fort Collins Fringe Festival (CO), Austin Frontera Fest (TX), Crossroads Denver Theater (CO), The Cohen New Works Festival at UT Austin (TX), Westmont College Santa Barbara (CA), and Brooklyn Yard (NYC).
We asked Small about the play’s development process, audience responses, and, most importantly, internet goat videos.
COHO: What is the strangest response you’ve gotten from an audience member about Mad & a Goat? What is the loveliest?
Diana Lynn Small (DLS): The audience response to Mad & a Goat consistently surprises me. The play’s tone is very slippery between high absurdity and deep sincerity, so audiences will laugh at moments of the play that can be very shocking to me. One audience member found himself weeping at the end of the play and sourced it to a line in the play that I find to be very meaningful to me, but is rarely recognized in the audience response. Finding an audience member who is moved in the same way as me at a point in the play reminds me of the significant and beautiful union between theater maker and watcher. One time a couple in the audience howled with laughter almost throughout the entire play and then after the show told me they used to own a goat farm in the south. Their relationship to the play took on this whole biographical significance for them.
COHO: You both wrote and directed Mad & a Goat – did you make any discoveries about your play as a director that you weren’t aware of as a writer? Or vice versa?
DLS: When I was first developing the play with Heather Johnson, I also acted in it. We performed that version of the play twice (in Fort Collins, CO and Austin, TX) and I recognized that I loved the show so much and wanted it to have a good, long life that I could not make that happen while wearing, really, four hats because I am also the producer (enter the fabulous Paige Tautz). But being inside the play helped significantly in the sharpening of the play’s narrative and clarity; it bonded Heather and I in a way that actors can where Heather felt completely comfortable interjecting during practicing a scene to ask questions about story holes and make suggestions as to how to punctuate moments. We felt like equals in the rehearsal room, both having a very clear passion for the project, but a kind of senselessness as to what the hell we were doing (we were literally rehearsing for a wall in Heather’s garage since the “director” was inside the play, too).
The opportunity in directing my own play is I could compose the physical and text languages of the play at the same time. I often make edits during a rehearsal and sometimes those edits will be cutting language to replace it with action and there was no one I had to double-check with about that. The play changes every time we perform it; that was a deal we made from the beginning. In this way, in directing and writing Mad & a Goat, it has become a piece that strengthens my writing and directing each time I return to it. I think this is also true for Heather & Paige as performers.
COHO: When you google “mad and a goat,” nine of the top ten results are about your play, and one of them is a youtube video entitled Angry Billy Goat Terrorizes Town. Have you seen this video? Are there other goat-related videos you wish would show up with the “mad and a goat” google search?
DLS: I haven’t seen that video or I don’t remember! I didn’t do a lot of online research to write the play. I was lucky enough that my collaborator, Heather Johnson, was working on a small goat farm at the time I was writing the show. We would have Skype dates where she would share goat-farming best practices with me, as well as encounters with the goats that were particularly strange or significant to her. Then, when Paige Tautz & I toured the show to Heather’s hometown of Fort Collins, CO, we visited that goat farm, meeting the goat residents. But since touring the play, I get a lot of goat videos shared with me and it’s always a little startling because the goats in Mad & a Goat are more surreal in my imagination than real and it’s startling to be reminded of what and how a goat actually is.
If anyone needs a reminder of what and how a goat actually is, the CoHo staff recommends the following: