Toraichi Kono and Charlie Chaplin.

I attended two out of the three plays presented at EdgeFest’s LA History Project at the Autry National Center last Sunday. Circle X’s 1pm production of Tom Jacobson’s “The Chinese Massacre” which “chronicles the first race riot in Los Angeles history, when 19 Chinese men and boys were lynched by a mob of 500 people from all nations” was a truly impressive debut even if still in the workshopping stage. The play generated many laughs while staying true to the hard facts. Or attempting to. Indeed, some of the funniest moments were born out of the playwright’s desire to confess to us that all the research he did came from press clippings and studies that might or might not tell the absolute truth. Sometimes the playwright gave us two points of view on the same person or incident from two different sources with two very different agendas, which made the play very timely as we’re dealing with two presidential candidates with two very different versions of our future, our past and our present. I highly recommend that you add your name to Circle X‘s e-mail list to stay informed about the future of this disturbing yet necessary play.

I stayed for the next presentation: the first act of Lodestone Theatre Ensemble’s “My Man Kono” written by Philip W. Chung and directed by Jeff Liu about Toraichi Kono who was Charles Chaplin’s valet for 17 years “before being arrested as a Japanese enemy spy on the eve of World War II.” This first act was extremely moving and also enlightening – does anybody know that Charlies Chaplin was the subject of an attack on his life while visiting Japan? – thanks to a terrific cast all around and an outstanding Garrett Wang as Toraichi Kono, all impassive face and bottled up emotions against Donovan Oakleaf’s Charlie Chaplin pirouetting around the stage with open arms and an overflowing heart. I must say when the play began I was embarrassed for whoever had the formidable task of bringing Charlie Chaplin to life but that’s exactly what Donovan Oakleaf did and I’m still recovering from the shock of having been in the genius’ presence. I also recommend that you go to Lodestone’s website to get a chance one day in the near…distant… future, as Philip W. Chung promised us, to witness this intriguing pair who, ironically, ended up having more in common when they grew apart.

Here is Sunday’s line-up for Part II of the festival:

11 AM
Watts Village Theater Company
At Risk
By Judy Soo Hoo
Directed by David Catanzarite
In a fictional middle school in South Los Angeles, every student is at risk, and so is every teacher. Watts Village Theater Company’s offering to the festival explores the history of United Teachers of Los Angeles through the eyes of a rookie and the motley band of veterans who get him through his first year.

1PM
About Productions
Bleeding Through
Written by Teresa Chavez and Rose Portillo
Directed by Teresa Chavez
A multi-media work inspired by Norman Klein’s novella Bleeding Through Layers of Los Angeles, which uncovers the narrative ghosts, both fictional and non-fictional of Angelino Heights, and addresses historical forgetting and the erasure of memory.

3:30PM
Native Voices at the Autry
Serra Springs
By Larissa FastHorse
Music by Brian Joseph
Lyrics by Brian Joseph and Larissa FastHorse
Directed by Robert Vestal
Two teens, two adults and one strange dude deal with some major surprises during one magical night at a protest to save the last sacred site of the Tongva people in West Los Angeles.

What: EdgeFest Los Angeles History Project
When: Sunday, July 13, and Sunday, July 20, 11AM, 1PM, 3:30 PM
Where: Autry National Center of the American West, Griffith Park Campus, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, CA, 90027-1462
How Much: Free
Reservations: Not required.
More Info: lahp@edgeoftheworld.org

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