Wednesday, November 7, 2007

365 Days, Plays, Birthdays and Orales

As an L.A. Center Stage project, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan Lori-Parks took it upon herself to write one play a day for an entire calendar year. The result, a monumental production eponymously titled 365 Days, 365 Plays, has had left those who live, breathe, sweat and dream theatre across the U.S. with mouths agape. Hundreds of companies nationwide have been staging them as if their livelihoods depended on it. Last night, a hometown of version of the final seven were delivered at California Plaza, the downtown home of the Grand Performances series. Every week for a year, seven short plays were thrown down somewhere in the land of voiceless angels and sweetly courteous immigrant mothers. The plays in the final throw down were funny, poignant, bold, revolutionary and bizarre... more evidence of the playwright's downright genius. Thought there was a decidedly Eastern, Hindu/Bhuddist/Chakra-slanging tilt to the entire assemblage of short theatrical pieces staged end to end seemlessly, the audience was almost a perfect balance of black and white. I sat next to the venerable poet and performer and friend, Peter J. Harris, author of Safe Arms: 20 Love & Erotic Poems. Even though Parks made an obvious effort and included an memorable Latino character in a brief comedic episode called "Talkback to the Playwright," there were none of us in the audience. Other than one of the the show's producers, LA theatre doyen, Diane Rodriguez, a playwright and director in her own right, the only other Chican@ I recognized in the audience was Debra Padilla, from SPARC (Social & Public Art Resource Center), where the digital mural by Judy Baca featured above can by found.

Thinking about how much work the downtown art scene and the theatre world in LA still has ahead of it in the way of bringing more of us into public art presentations, I was taken back to a night last week when I missed a friend who works near Crash Mansion and wound up having a beer at Hank's, a serious dive in the old Stillwell Hotel at 9th and Grand. Wouldn't you know I'd have to wind up in the middle of a birthday party for a blonde sweetheart, the blue-eyed, dimpled icon of All-American perfection, not bulemic but buxom in a tiara with more than a few shots of Maker's Mark under her belt. Eavesdropping on her friends, all of them equally young and pretty while going on about Port Arthur and Beaumont and Houston in a verifiable twang, I finally caved in and swaggered around in my Texas Longhorn guayabera (perhaps oxymoronic). I was the sudden toast, the new kid who even managed to get a peck on the cheek and a "thank you , sweetheart" from the girl of the hour, none other than Ryanne Duzich who had starred in, according to the Texas-natives there, Friday Night Lights. Someone else made it a point to bring a bottle of Wild Turkey as a gift for Ryanne. Turns out a lot of them live in the Santa Fe Street Lofts downtown, and I was caught between dreading the fact that a covey of beautiful Hollywood hipsters had finally invaded my last refuge and the pleasant glow that comes from being around so many genuinely nice folks from back home. In a city so full of Chicanos, Mexicanos and Latinos, maybe I do like to find myself ashore on stretches of the stratified and dissonant streets where difference and distances are built in, where it takes an effort to reach someone with a different history and an accent, someone walking around behind walls they don't even see...

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