November 2008


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The Minerva Tapia Dance Group was created in 1995 in Tijuana, Mexico, under the direction of dancer and choreographer Minerva Tapia.  A decade of intense work and the presentation of over forty projects in various forums in Mexico and abroad have earned the group recognition and awards both nationally and internationally.
Constituting an essential reference for dance in the border region, the Minerva Tapia Dance Group, which includes dancers from both Mexico and the U.S., has developed choreographic works around multiple themes, including some that emerge from encounters between the United States and Mexico at the border. The group adopts a perspective that joins a trained eye with discipline and an enduring commitment to dance, a perspective that permits a careful balancing of dance art, choreographic narrative, and a re-created social context. The Minerva Tapia Dance Group has presented its works in Spain, Panama, the United States, and Mexico. Among its most notable choreographies are Juana’s Little Machine, Flaquita, Caritina, and Illegal Border…Frontera Ilegal. The Minerva Tapia Dance Group has presented its works in Spain, Panama, the United States, and Mexico.

$20 general. Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. 4th Street, LA, CA 90057. For more information go to




A World Premiere Event..

By Bernardo Solano

Directed by Tina Sanchez
Production Design by Ernesto Coehlo

A desolate L.A. highway sets the stage for a bizarre encounter between a man in his car and a mysterious woman in distress. Sometimes loneliness can take you too far.

Cast: (in alphabetical order)
Jill Fouts, Marissa Garcia, Pete Pano, Kevin Vavasseur

2 roles + 4 actors changing partners each night=
4 different ways to see this show! See them all….

Tickets: $20 General Admission; $12 Students & Seniors

Nov. 21 – Dec. 14
Fri. – Sat. 8PM, Sun. 7PM

CoA @ The Alexandria
501 S. Spring Street, 3rd Floor
Downtown Los Angeles, CA 90013

For Group Rates contact :
Purchase online at
Box Office: 323-883-1717

CoA loves LA!
Honoring our history as the oldest non-profit professional theater in Los Angeles,
Company of Angels reflects and responds to the richness, diversity and complexity that is our city!!


Ofelia Esparza by Gil Ortiz. Tropico de Nopal fashion show 2006. Copyright Gil Ortiz/Tropico de Nopal.

The photograph on Ofelia’s head piece is that of her mother’s great grandmother, Mama Pola, and Ofelia’s baby brother.

In 2001 for Day of the Dead at Self Help Graphics, Ofelia recreated a prison cell in a corner of the gallery. She intended the entire installation to represent “grief for the living dead”–those who are in jail, their loved ones, and others around the world who lead lives that are unfulfilled, tragic, or lack freedom. At the foot of the bed she assembled a small traditional ofrenda made from materials that would be available to prisoners: papel picado made from newspapers, paper flowers of toilet paper, small offerings of pictures and flowers. Thus she celebrated a universal human condition in a truly traditional Mexican manner.Alliance for California Traditional Arts.

To celebrate Ofelia Esparza’s first solo exhibit, I asked the artist to answer a few questions knowing that what Ofelia truly deserves is to be the subject of a documentary or a book about her life and the lives of her ancestors for whom she builds altars year after year not with grief but with a deep love and admiration for the blessings her ancestors received and the hardships they lived through and conquered, if not within their time, at least within hers.


Ofelia Esparza’s peace altar for the LA VS. WAR art show, April 2008.

Smiling Spider: Who are the artists who have influenced you the most?

Ofelia Esparza: There are many artists I have come to admire and from whom I draw inspiration today. But there are three who have been in my sights since I was a child. The first one has been my mother from my earliest recollections. She never called herself an artist, she didn’t learn her art in school, but her resourceful, creative spirit, her imagination sparked my own beginnings in my life and love for creativity and art.  Thus, I have been greatly influenced by the Mexican folk art that I have been surrounded by for most of my life.  During my childhood, folk art, brought back from my mother’s visits to Mexico every year, mirrored my mother’s own style of bright colors and handmade decorations for her home altars and our celebrations.  Perhaps this is why- as a very young girl, when I discovered Diego Rivera (from postal cards my mother sent me on her trips) I was drawn to his images of people who resembled me or those in my life around me, and by the familiarity I found in Rivera’s images of people engaged in activities I recognized.

Later, by the time I was in junior high school, I discovered Charles White in his book of portraits called “Images of Dignity”. I was always drawing things around me, but especially faces of people- mostly my own. White’s graphite drawings of ordinary people in his life, was an inspiration to me to keep drawing and striving for likenesses in my images. As I got older I began to understand why White called his portraits images of dignity– something I recognized in people around me–they  had not written a book nor held any degrees, but many commanded respect through their hard work, and carried themselves in dignity despite their humble possessions or limited resources. Charles Whites’s influence has held me to this day.


Charles White, “Spiritual.”



Ofelia Esparza  by Gilbert Ortiz.

Ofelia Esparza is an altarista: an altar maker. Since she retired from teaching in L.A.’s public schools and raising 9 children with her late husband, Ofelia Esparza has been commissioned to do altars for museums as far as Scotland and as close to home as Chicago and San Francisco. But each November, it’s in her hometown of East L.A. that this diminutive woman gathers around her children and her community to build gigantic altars for the Day of the Dead celebrations. Don’t think Ofelia is not busy the rest of the year, since I’ve met her she’s been designing altars for a Frida Kahlo retrospective, the massive LA vs. WAR art show downtown, the Crewest gallery’s FALLEN exhibit to commemorate the lives of graffiti artists who died in the making of their art, and that’s just a few examples. Oh, and should I mention you may have seen her in one of Huell Howser’s most viewed CALIFORNIA GOLD episodes about the tradition of Nacimientos (nativity scenes.)

“Bienvenidos/Welcome”, 2007.

One of Ofelia’s most gripping and powerful work is a prison cell she recreated in 2001 at the Self-Help Graphics art gallery as an altar for “the living dead”, a picture of which is featured in her first solo exhibit which runs through December 13th in the Boathouse Gallery at Plaza de la Raza. The show also includes more altar pictures, her vivid print work and one Day of the Dead altar solidly planted in the ground, its many branches covered with figurines, offerings and the serene portraits of the departed eager for us to come and greet them.

I don’t believe photographs of her altars do justice to Ofelia’s art. Unfortunately, like the Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas who “after having served its purpose of generating healing by transmitting positive energies to the environment and those who view it, and asking deities for blessings,” Ofelia’s altars are dismantled at the end of each event never to be seen again.

Having had the pleasure to sit with Ofelia and listen to her action-packed family stories in her multicolored home alive with objects and pictures that danced and whispered in our ears, it’s Ofelia herself who should be on display to share her family history spanning the Mexican Revolution and the move to America.

“Veladora” , 2007.

Before it gets dismantled never to be seen again, you can bathe in the light and warmth of Ofelia’s tribute to the loved ones who have come before her. I saw the show during Plaza de la Raza’s Day of the Dead celebrations. My camera captured the contrast between the altar in the afternoon light and in the evening with its christmas lights on. The many candles representing the souls of the deceased which adorn the altar cannot be lit because of fire regulations.

Ofelia Espara’s altar. Day of the Dead exhibit. Plaza de la Raza, 2008.



I just received two press releases I would love to share with you.

“Written by Peres Owino and directed by Ayana Cahrr, BEAUTY FOR ASHES is about a Kenyan woman who discovers her real self  while in America by breaking down society’s labels and redefining herself as we have just witnessed with another Kenyan, BARACK OBAMA, President of these United States!!”

You can experience the play that has been called “the most honest piece of theater” this weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7:30pm @ Stage 52, 5299 W. Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016.

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY. Reservations are strongly recommended. To purchase tickets call (323) 960-4429 or buy ONLINE:


Tamales de Puerco (Pork Tamales) tells the story of an undocumented Mexican woman who sells tamales and must maneuver through three cultures after learning that her son is deaf. While her husband is unable to cope and resorts to abuse and violence, she tries to overcome her own self-imposed handicaps so that she and her son can survive. An overachieving deaf woman trying to help them also discovers that she too must set aside some of her own self-imposed handicaps to finally achieve what she truly desires. Starring Oscar Basulto, Brian Cole, Mercedes Floresislas, Evelina Gaina, Fernando Gavaria, Royeric Gonzalez, Carlos Magaña, Diego Medina, Miriam Moses, Liana Velazquez, Carlos Zelaya.

Fri & Sat @ 8pm, Sun @ 7pm, $15 general, $12 students & seniors, $8 Boyle Heights residents. Group rates available. Opening night reception on Friday, Nov 14.

Reservations are also strongly recommended. FOR TIX: or 323-263-7684. MORE INFO:,


My third pick is Cornerstone’s FOR ALL TIME, which I saw last weekend and highly recommend. A review shall soon follow.

See you at the theater!


Courtesy of Gilbert Ortiz. Nov.2, 2008.






Situated in the century-old Lincoln Park, Plaza de la Raza is the only multidisciplinary cultural arts center serving Latinos in Los Angeles. The organization was founded over 33 years ago by prominent labor, business and community leaders and incorporated into a non-profit cultural arts and educational center in 1970. Today, Plaza provides year-round programs in arts education and fosters the enrichment of all cultures. Through the arts, Plaza provides a vital human resource service, bridging geographic, social, artistic and cultural boundaries of Los Angeles and beyond.

Plaza de la Raza’s principal community-based program and crowning achievement of its 33-year legacy is the School of Performing and Visual Arts (SPVA). Since its inception in 1975, the SPVA has grown to provide 500-600 students each week with a full curriculum in theatre, dance, music and visual arts. Plaza recognizes the ability art has as an alternative to the often harsh experiences that come with growing up and living in Los Angeles’ inner city and is committed to providing a space where every student can give life to self-expression, innovation, creativity and individuality. Plaza also presents an energetic list of programs including performances on the Willie Velasquez outdoor stage and the Margo Albert Theatre. In the Boathouse Gallery, the school has exhibitions of work produced by its students ages five to adult.



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