WE ARE EAST LA REP
East LA Rep has been confused as being East LA Classic recently. This is nothing new. Below is my attempt at explaining to whomever reads this blog about the difference between the two. I will focus on the Shakespeare similarity because I think this is where the fault lies.
I’ve met Tony Plana. He’s a nice guy. He read my poem for the opening of the East Los Angeles Civic Center. He did it justice. It was a good poem. It wasn’t great but it was good. I’m no Maya Angelou and the opening was no presidential inauguration but it was a special event. I mention Tony Plana because he, along with Julie Arenal, Robert Beltran, and Ruben Sierra launched a theater company called East LA Classic Theater back in 1995. The sole purpose of which is to spotlight classically trained Latino and other minority artists in the investigation of the classics in culturally specific productions and adaptations.
What are the classics? Everything from Shakespeare to Eugene O’Neil’s A Touch of the Poet and Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen. I’ve seen a couple of their productions. The production and the talent onstage are worth being compared to them. However, East LA Rep is different.
Yes, we did do Shakespeare at East Los Angeles Parks. But we did it to train ourselves (Juan, Jesus and me) and the actors we hired. How many times have you seen a brown face playing Macbeth? Shakespeare workshops and trainings can be pretty pricey and we just didn’t have the cash to cover such an expense. We brought in friends to help us. Wilma Bonet provided an excellent training on understanding the language of Shakespeare and the intentions we need to commit to with each word we uttered. And Carla Pantoja shared all her stage combat knowledge and taught us how to fight with swords. I still remember some of her moves.
Our first production was Macbeth and we learned a lot. We battled for stage space on the grass with the paleteros, bike riders, skateboarders, eloteros and sometimes local drunks. We also learned a thing or two about projection. Our voices had to be heard over the noise of ghetto birds and ambulances and the rush of traffic on the 110 Pasadena Freeway. And we learned to conserve energy. We performed in the peak of Summer and even though we would make sure our stage and the audience was in the shade…it was HOT. No amount of water hydrated us enough. I am happy to report that we rarely missed our lines…mostly because we wanted the show to end quickly. When we did miss lines, it was because we were busy shooing away the junkies.
We also performed Shakespeare because it was affordable. We didn’t have to pay the rights for use of the play, and we didn’t have to pay for a space because the shows were staged at the park. We wanted to present art for free at parks where the community who might not buy a $15 to $20 ticket to see a play that is mildly understandable due to it’s crazy language might be able to enjoy. Eliminating overhead costs helped us from going broke, kept the performances free to our audience and allowed us a stage where we could make mistakes if we needed to and still forgive ourselves. We had nothing to lose. We slowly built a reputation and by the time our last show came around our audience had grown.
Other than our production of The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico Garcia Lorca, we have never done any other shows considered classics. We’d love to do Hedda Gabler and The Cherry Orchard and we haven’t done Shakespeare in a while but no doubt we will stage an adaptation of one his plays in the future. It will bring back many good memories. Memories of a theater company that was full of passion and eager to work hard to accomplish a dream. A company in East Los Angeles…not a traveling company or production, but a company rooted in the community that saw the likes of Asco, Gronk, Marisela Norte, Jaime Escalante, Anthony Quinn, and many others grow into renowned artists and educators.
“East LA Rep aims to raise the artistic profile of East Los Angeles, contributing to the landscape of the American Theatre by cultivating work of diverse artists and engaging audiences in new experiences.”
This is our new mission statement. Our look is now different. Our logo represents a bridge. Connecting non-theater going communities with theater loving folks, marrying the fine arts with stage productions, and music with drama.
We are NOT East LA Classic.
WE ARE EAST LA REP.
We will not change our name to make it easier for you to recognize us. It means too much to us to have EAST LA in the title. It is our heart. A company can not survive without one.
Remember who we are.