The pandemic has led a lot of people to ponder and re-examine aspects of their personal lives, and look at social constructs and systems in a new light. This was true for Andrina Wekontash Smith, and she reckoned with those thoughts and feelings the best way she knows how — she turned them into art.
On October 16, Smith, a member of the Shinnecock Nation, will present “East End Native,” a one-night show at Guild Hall centered around her personal experiences, her Indigenous identity, and how the world has shifted during the course of a still ongoing pandemic. The show will be followed by a panel discussion with several community leaders — including Minerva Perez, Dyashawa Sylvester and London Bess — where they will explore the themes Smith brings up as part of her performance. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Shinnecock Youth Clubhouse, an organization that helps promote and enhance the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being of Shinnecock youth.
Smith is currently one of Guild Hall’s community artists in residence, and spoke last week about the upcoming performance.
“The show explores my experience both growing up on the East End and questions I have about what community means in today’s world,” she said. “I feel like the East End has had a significant shift through the pandemic, and I’m asking what community means through that, and how can we start asking ourselves important questions that we’ve been fearful of asking.”
Through the performance, Smith will explore issues of white privilege and the stereotypes and misconceptions people hold about the Shinnecock territory. She will call on her multi-faceted talents as a performer to bring all those issues to light.
“As a storyteller, I feel privileged to have access to a number of different devices for storytelling purposes,” she said, adding that parable, poetry, personal monologue and comedy are some of the methods she uses to draw out these issues and explore the concepts of community trauma and alternative perspectives.
“The character will be a privileged white woman who has a take on the reservation, and I’ll use that as an opportunity to echo a lot of things I’ve been hearing from the upper echelon demographic about us as a tribe,” she added.
Ideas centering around entitlement and the lack of regard for communities that have existed in the area long before it became viewed as a bastion of wealth and privilege will be explored throughout the performance as well.
“I wouldn’t be the artist that I am if I didn’t call that out,” Smith said.
In many ways, the show defies a traditional definition, and that’s intentional, Smith said. It is, technically speaking, a one-woman show, with Christine Schiulli as lighting designer.
“As I get older, I have found more comfort in embodying different artistic practices regarding performance, and this is a chance for me to play with those on an incredible stage like Guild Hall,” she said.
Making the Shinnecock Youth Clubhouse the beneficiary of the performance was a natural fit, Smith added.
“When I think of community, I often go to the most vulnerable members and judge the health of the community off that,” she said. “The East End has not been doing all that it can to support the youth. As a society, we’ve really dropped the ball with being able to provide for them and listen to their voices and hear their concerns.”
Supporting Shinnecock youth in particular is a cause close to Smith’s heart, and she said she wants them to have a say in what they need, and how the money that’s raised will be spent to help them.
“Trusting their opinions and supporting them is so important,” she said.
Andrina Wekontash Smith’s “East End Native” performance is Saturday, October 16, at 7 p.m. at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton. Admission is pay what you can from $25 to $150 (in increments of $25). Visit guildhall.org for details.