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Watts Proves to be Fertile Ground to Dig for LA's History

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Those who have lived in LA for any period of time may think of Watts as the home of Samuel Rodia’s Watts Towers, or perhaps remember the 1992 Watts Riots (which were really city-wide).  If so, they will be in for a treat at Company of Angel’s This Land, dramatizing the changing diorama of Los Angeles history. Playwright Evangeline Ordáz has crafted a story that is both intimate and panoramic, beginning with the inhabitants of a long-ago Tongva native village right on the spot where, 100 years later, two families of their descendants intertwine.

 

In 1842, when this narrative begins, sweeping migrational shifts are less a matter of peoples than individuals.  In the tribe, newly christened Tomas (Richard Azurdia in the first of several roles) has signed on with the mission in search of opportunity, only to find himself enslaved by the good padres.  Winsome Toya (Cheryl Umana) is left defenseless when Enrique (Jeff Torres) arrives and begins to woo her. In this first of intertwining stories, the Tongva land is commandeered and tamed by the Spanish settlers only to be overpowered by Dalton (Ian Alda), part of the invading American cavalry in 1848.

 

Without going through the entire trajectory of settlement and displacement that brought waves of European Jews, then African Americans, and revisited by Latinos today, the dreaded real estate developer finally appears.  It’s enough to know that Ordáz enfolds larger shifts into intimate portraits of the families who lived on the same plot through 150 years. We bleed with them through betrayals, an influx of drugs, two riots, and finally economic encroachment. Will our town lose its heart?  This question lies at the very center of This Land.

Acclaimed director Armando Molina handles the interlocking stories from past to present with ease, cleanly moving them like chess pieces on the video-graphic-filled stage.  He is aided by the artistic settings designed by Justen Huen, with graphic enhancements by Benjamin Durman, and period costuming by Manee Leija.  The innovative sound design by Rebecca Kessin enhances time periods subliminally, beginning before the action with the strange mechanical sounds that unite past and present.

This Land is an important play that brings empathy to the current urban crisis. Company of Angels has crafted a lesson that should be imparted to Angelenos of all stripes.

The Company of Angels presents This Land through November 13 on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 8 pm, and Sundays at 7 pm in their new theatre space, 1350 San Pablo Street, Los Angeles 90033. For reservations, call (323) 8814 or online at www.companyofangels.org.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.