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Photo found on http://www.justspaces.org.

Company of Angels Theatre and Urban Possibilities present

Downtown Voices

STANDING IN THE GAP

Friday May 29th. Saturday May 30th at 8pm, and Sunday May 31st at 3 and 7pm

at CoA Inside The Black Box at The Alexandria Hotel

501 S. Spring Street, (corner of 5th St.) THIRD FLOOR, Downtown Los Angeles, 90013

STANDING IN THE GAP is a new theatrical production that shares the insights, courage and talents of inner-city men and women.  In the gap between skid row reality and the real estate developers vision for a revitalized downtown stand the low income, often homeless men and women who for decades have relied on the safety net provided by the flop houses and streets of downtown LA.  In spite of attempts to build them out of existence, these men and women are still here and in “Standing in the Gap” they tell their stories.  Monologues, comedic scenes, and songs weave together to create a kaleidoscope of life in the other downtown.  In January 2009, CoA and U.P. joined forces to create a Theater Workshop for low-income residents of downtown.  These workshops provide a safe space to foster artistic expression for those unaccustomed to having this opportunity.   From these workshops a new theatrical ensemble was borne and their untapped talent created the theatrical pieces that make up “Standing in the Gap”

http://www.CompanyofAngels.orgCoA reflects and responds to the richness, diversity and complexity that is Los Angeles . Our company of diverse theater artists fosters mutual learning partnerships with the residents of this city through artistic development opportunities, community building enterprises and life experiences. Those partnerships develop emerging artists, create new work and re-envision theater to entertain and serve the City of Angels.

http://www.UrbanPossibilities.org U.P. exists to help and inspire homeless and working poor men and women see beyond their circumstances to fulfill their unlimited potential. We are a growing community of producers, artists, entrepreneurs and everyday people driven by the passion to create possibilities for those working hard to help them.

Tickets $30 & $20  at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/66571

CoA Inside The Black Box at The Alexandria

501 S. Spring St. Third Floor, Downtown LA, 90013


IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DONATE A TICKET  PLEASE PURCHASE YOUR TICKET AND SELECT WILL CALL TO RECEIVE IT.  THEN TAKE ONE MORE IMPORTANT STEP AND EMAIL JACKIE@URBANPOSSIBILITIES.ORG  YOUR NAME AND THE NUMBER OF WILL CALL TICKETS DONATED.  OR YOU CAN CALL 323-883-1717 AND SOMEONE WILL GET BACK TO YOU AND PROCESS YOUR DONATION.  YOUR GIFT WILL ABSOLUTELY THRILL SOMEONE!  THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROSITY

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Sarah Rosenberg, Joyce F. Liu and Tohoru Masamune in Henry Ong’s “Seppuku!”.

Photo by Gary Leonard found on LA Downtown News.

There’s no place like home for Company of Angels. For their second year of LA VIEWS, eight members of their Playwrights Group explore the legacy of the silent era movie stars who held their secret rendez-vous and opulent parties at the Alexandria Hotel, where Company Of Angels’ black box theater is located. The hotel hasn’t been restored to its 1920’s glory; no face lift for this aging star so don’t be put off by the wrinkles on its floors and walls and please don’t leave without taking  a peek into the retired ballroom, with its lights on and off.

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The Palm Court ballroom found on Bryan Arnett’s web page: “Alexandria Hotel Then and Now.”

Company of Angels’ playhouse is on the hotel’s 3rd floor.  Since most of LA VIEWS II’s 8 one-act plays take place at the Alexandria, I enjoyed the guilty pleasure of being turned into a voyeur and watching from a peephole.  The chemistry between 2 perfectly cheerful bellhops, Joshua Lamont and Juanita Chase, “your hosts for the night,” definitely add to the excitement.  The playful duo speaks to us as if we were in the heydays of the hotel then suddenly asks us to “please turn off any noisy device” using their back-and-forth banter to blur the lines between past and present.

True to CoA’s mission, the playwrights don’t linger in the shallow side of the celebrity pool and instead give us a broad view into the silent screen era from the stars’ personal (Henry Ong’s “Seppuku!”) and/or political point of view (Jamison Newlander’s “Goodbye, Mary Pickford”) to their racial makeup and sexual preferences. But what makes the show unique is that the stories are told in the present. The silver screen’s gods and goddesses are evoked in spirit by men and women who share our 21st century’s quirks, obsessions and longings: extras on the set of “The Sheik”s remake (Leon Martell’s “Do You Not Know?”,) security guards in the hotel’s lobby (Damon Chua’s “Fresh Cream Pie”,) lovers and loners hiding in hotel rooms and movie theaters.

The comedic sketches outnumber and may overshadow the more subtle or darker pieces, but it does make this joyful evening a perfect remedy to fight our current state of depression. Credit goes to the sensitive direction and the high-power ensemble’s comic timing which keeps us on our toes during even the most predictable one-act.

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Marco Tazioli and Brian Rohan in Lilly Thomassian’s deliciously surreal  “Pan Troglodytes”

At the end of the show, in the theater’s lobby, portraits of Pola Negri, Enrico Caruso, Mary Pickford, Sessue Hayakawa and their peers called out to me when I hadn’t even noticed them upon my arrival. I smiled at them in new found appreciation and they smiled back.

Through May 10th. For venue address, schedule of performances, and cast/crew information, go to http://www.companyofangels.org.

Click here for my interview with CoA member Xavi Moreno.

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“LA Views II” is the second installment of the Company of Angels’ hugely popular Playwrights Group project, “LA Views,” which debuted in 2008. Among the inspirations for this show are Enrico Caruso, Sessue Hayakawa, Alla Nazimova, Pola Negri, Mabel Normand, Ramon Novarro, Mary Pickford, and Rudolph Valentino.

Luminaries of the Silent Era are the inspiration of contemporary Los Angeles playwrights Damon Chua, Leon Martell, Jamison Newlander, Henry Ong, S. Vasanti Saxena, Lilly Thomassian, Brenda Varda and Kyle T. Wilson.  This moving and comic chronicle, set during the heydays and nowadays of Downtown Los Angeles’ Alexandria Hotel, shines a light on the parallel lives of those who have inhabited this building in its heyday and those who dwell in its present embodiment. This production examines lives once lived at their most celebrated, while contrasting the reality of current existence that approaches irrelevance and obscurity.” http://www.companyofangels.org

Finding myself in the company of actor/poet Xavi Moreno at an exclusive private screening of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” in Boyle Heights last weekend, I decided Xavi was the perfect spokesperson for CoA’s new production. One reason is that he performed in two significant plays last year which highlighted L.A.’s history present and past:  the exuberant Company of Angels’ staging of  Ricardo A. Bracho’s “SISSY“,  about affirming one’s difference on the streets of 1970’s Culver City, and Cornerstone Theatre Group’s “FOR ALL TIME” written by KJ Sanchez, a heart wrenching examination into how civilians and convicts alike are affected by the consequences of their actions and by the laws of California’s  justice system. The other reason for making Xavi Moreno’s the ambassador to “LA VIEWS II”?  He’s one of those rare actors who can claim L.A. as his native city.

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Company of Angels members Richard Azurdia and Xavi Moreno in Boyle Heights.

Xavi Moreno:  I was born, raised and staged “East”of the LA River in the historic neighborhood of Boyle Heights. The house I grew up in has a view of the Hollywood sign from the front porch. I wasn’t inspired by seeing the sign every day – I couldn’t – it was always smoggy. It’s in my blood. My parents have always been entertainers. I was placed on stage 2 months after my birth. I played “Baby Jesus” in a comedic production of “El Nacimineto” that featured my pops as Jose and several other known Mexican actors at the famed El Million Dollar stage in Downtown. That was my first on-stage performance, naked and I’m still not equity..haha.

What kept the inspiration wheel rolling was my babysitters: El Chavo del Ocho, El Chapulin Colorado, La India Maria and novelas like Rosa Salvaje and Carusel de Ninos. My parents were always working so these folks took care of me and when the T.V was shut off, it was my turn to shine and that’s when my crush for live theater began and I have endured a lifelong love/hate relationship with the stage ever since. Theater has stereotyped me, personalized me, released me, and brought me many of my best travels, friends, and experiences, while it has also held me back and held me down. Theater is the foundation that all my accomplishments have been built upon. It’s the fuel that jets me always a step ahead of the pack.

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When Xavi’s life is not engulfed by theater, he performs as one of  Los Poets del Norte.

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COMPANY OF ANGELS THEATRE presents
A World Premiere Event..

lost
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 : xmoreno@companyofangels.org
Purchase online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/48426
Box Office: 323-883-1717

www.COMPANYOFANGELS.org
www.myspace.com/company_of_angels

*****************************************
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!!

Kanzo. BH Life Film Festival fundraiser. Photo by Sam Hernandez.

frankiely: Tell us about your first encounter with Burlesque.

KANZO: My first time was at the Fourty Deuce on Melrose where they do a mainstream kind of burlesque. I felt so empowered by it. I didn’t feel ashamed to watch. It was such a relief to feel good about something that can be considered bad. This was not degrading to women, men were not throwing money at them saying come over here and do this sexual act for me. It was accepted in the room that this was a performance and I was so taken by the connection the girls had with the audience since I’m a performer as well. I was blown away by what they did and how they did it with such confidence. They didn’t take everything off and they were able to captivate and suspend the audience’s attention by teasing them… which is what it’s about.

Laurel & Hardy, picture found on http://www.dvdbeaver.com.

frankiely: Can you expand on that? Being a French woman by trade, burlesque to me evokes Laurel & Hardy usually with their clothes on.

KANZO: Burlesque in major cities has changed over time, it died and was revived and died again and was revived again. What is interesting here in Los Angeles is that the girls make a comment, maybe political, social or cultural like La Cholita

KANZO: She’s a great performer and dancer, her persona comments on how we see Chicanos or Latin people in our culture today, maybe not immigrants from Mexico or Central America but the pocha, if you want to say the term… the Chicana of Los Angeles. She dresses up in very traditional forms of folkloric dresses but she has her twist for the new generation. She represents neo-burlesque, the new wave, the new Chicana, what it is to be a Latina in today’s L.A.

Each performer has their own personality, their own act. Ruby Champagne calls herself the Mexican Spitfire of Burlesque; her inspiration comes from the 1930’s Golden era of Mexican cinema. She’s got the glamorous look. Her routines are very classic, it’s not just about the body and about stripping, it’s about her as this persona and you follow her dialogue, her dance, and yes it involves taking off clothes but it’s really about the revealing of the personality.

Ruby Champagne. Photo by Laura Creecy.

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Flor de Maria Chahua and Art McDermott in “Legit” by Henry Ong.

“L.A. Views: Ten Minutes At A Time” by the Company of Angels @ The Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013. April 10th-26th, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm. $20. Reservations recommended: (323) 883-1717.

I discovered the Company of Angels last year when they performed one of Suzan Lori-Parks’ 365 days/365 plays (Taco review) and left exhilarated by their synergy, undeniable talent and dedication to the City of Angels. In their new production, “L.A. Views: Ten Minutes at a Time”, “with laughter, tears, hope, sorrow (and even 70’s music,) the eight playwrights involved in LA Views bring you 10-minute stories that leave you questioning your own understanding of community and all it encompasses.”

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Protestors against anti-immigraton laws march by the Alexandria Hotel, March 2006.

Another treat is that the Company of Angels’ new black box is located inside one of our City’s landmarks, the Alexandria Hotel in Downtown L.A. Last Sunday I met with one of L.A. Views’ directors, Karen Anzoategui, and asked her about the Ghost Building and her involvement in the production:

KA: Our theater is on the third floor overlooking this beautiful ballroom where they used to have dances and parties. Mae West used to stay at the Alexandria Hotel. Charlie Chaplin and Al Capone were also frequent visitors. The room that has become our theater used to be the V.I.P. room for the ballroom where all these celebrities gathered. We moved everything out, cleaned it, we scraped it, painted it. We found a lot of interesting things like all these encrypted words on the wall. Why would people write “cheat” and “rat”? It’s so intriguing and mysterious. You wonder where it all comes from.

A lot of older residents still live at the hotel, the Hotel does things for them like movie nights. We want to get them involved with the theater. Some of them are excited about us being there. This old lady’s been coming by just to sit and watch. It’s been great also for us to come together as a company, because we had to build the theater from the ground up. We also have a great technical director, Justin Huen.

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Alexandria Hotel circa 1919.

TACO: I’ve met Justin, he’s also an actor.

KA: He’s a man of many talents. With him on board, I knew we were going to have a great damn show. We wanted to ask “What is community in Los Angeles?” So the Company of Angels’ Playwrights Group came together and started writing around that theme. I really wanted to be part of something that is about LA because that’s where I want to be.

TACO: Tell me about the play you directed for LA Views, “Turning Around Mercy” by Jason Newlander.

KA: I started reading the plays and one of them was about this hospital and at the time I was doing HIV work, I was drawing blood and maybe interested in getting certified as a Phlebotomist. So I was in the vibe of hospital settings and also finding out about what happened in the emergency room at King Drew Hospital. I talked with my peers who worked there and learned that it shut down and wondered why? Why did they let it get to that point? That’s exactly what the play ”Turning Around Mercy” is exploring. It’s these women administrators trying to hold a hospital together so that it doesn’t fall apart. That’s why I wanted to direct it and Jason Newlander is a great writer.

For descriptions of the plays and a list of cast and crew, go to www.companyofangels.org/laviews.php.

For more fascinating stories on the Alexandria Hotel, check out Damon Chua’s blog, The Ghost Building. Damon Chua is one of the playwrigts involved in LA Views. His play is called “Stuffed Grape Leaves.”

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L.A. Views’ “Mass Transit” by Evangeline Ordaz. Pictured from left to right: July Evans, Nicole Ortega (back), Oscar Basulto, Richard Azuurdia (back)