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24th Street Theatre's ICE Provides a Sobering Lesson for Gringos

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Every group of immigrants has experienced discrimination and alienation when first arriving in the United States, but none have been so systematically assaulted as our neighbors south of the border. 24th Street Theatre’s ICE is meant to provide a distanced view of the problem, setting the play in 1988, when Mexicans could still maintain somewhat of a low profile. Even at this 30-year perspective, though, Leon Martell’s portrait of two cousins who “jumped” the border learn disturbing lessons about Americans in their interactions with the home population.

I should explain: Chepe (Jesús Castaños-Chima) lures his cousin, Nacho (Tony Durán),  to Los Angeles, under the impression that it is the land of milk and honey. Instead, he learns that Chepe just needs his mechanic’s expertise to keep his ancient ice cream/taco truck moving. Through Nacho’s eyes, we see the real dilemmas that immigrants face in the actions of his older cousin. The travails of another immigrant, and Irish priest (Davitt Felder, who also portrays a succession of exploitive “patrones”) threads throughout the story, as he tries in vain to interest his superior, the off-stage Catholic Monsignor, in funding programs for new arrivals.

Martell’s script calls for three bodies to portray an entire neighborhood of people surrounding Chepe and Nacho. As with all of 24th Street’s work, Artistic Director Debbie Devine meticulously brings the story to life through combinations of lighting, video, sound, and music. If not for the actors’ skilled mime, for instance, this attempt might have appeared sloppy and unfocused. The illusion created when pushing their hapless truck, first in one direction, then the other requires the cooperation of lighting and sound although the truck itself never moves.

From CSUN professor Dan Weingarten’s molded lighting and projections, to Chris Moscatiello’s exacting soundscape augmenting Keith Mitchell’s set pieces, complete with an aging ice-cream truck, all the elements coalesce. Shannon A. Kennedy’s understated costuming echoes the period without being flashy. The bilingual super-titles and voice-overs complete the immersive experience for one and all

Martell’s story overflows its bounds, however, with the good father’s church necessarily represented by a sometimes tagged, stained-glass window and some entrances and exits taking place up and down the aisles. Depending on one’s culture, audiences will leave the play having learned, or having reinforced, important lessons. We cannot turn a blind eye to those who exploit immigrant workers; at the same time, we need to end our societal paralysis in solving California’s immigration issues.

ICE  continues Saturdays and Sundays at 3:00 pm and Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm through June 10th , 2018 at the 24th Street Theatre, 1117 W. 24th St., Los Angeles CA 90007. Tickets: $2.40 for those from University Park; $10.00 to $24.00 for non-residents. Phone (213) 745-6516, or







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.”


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.