La Muerte Vive at the Historic Million Dollar Theatre

Gina Linn Espinoza’s most recent project was as the producer of the 20th Anniversary stage production of Real Women Have Curves by Josefina Lopez. When asked to define the role of a producer, she uses a description her father would use, “[Producers] are like the wheels of a fine oiled machine, [they] keep everything moving in a forward motion.”

Espinoza’s father passed away earlier this year and it is fitting that she is now producing an event called La Muerte Vive which takes the Mexican traditional holiday of Day of the Dead to a whole new level at the Million Dollar Theatre on November 2nd.  Espinoza dedicates this work to her father, “I believe it is so important to honor those who came before to pave the way for our successes.”

Burlesque Artist Ruby Champagne posing in front a Day of the Dead panel by Tony Dominguez

La Muerte Vive is an event the likes of which have not been seen yet in Los Angeles. It is a coming together of artists such as Will-Dog of Ozomatli fame, composer Santos de los Angeles, burlesque dancer Ruby Champagne among others to tell the story of the demise of death and her resurrection. It fuses carpa style theatre with its American counterpart vaudeville and makes use of giant Judas type figures and skulls made out of paper-mache. A giant altar is the stage and the piñatas and puppets come alive during the show.

The show was written and directed by Tony Dominguez with lyrics from music by Santos de Los Angeles. Dominguez has also designed and created all the paper-mache art for this show. The show will feature live music by The Wise Guys Big Band Machine.

La Muerte Vive hopes to appeal to a new generation of theatre audiences, those who may not have any interest in regular theater but may enjoy a variety type show. “We thread a humorous lovable character called the Town Crier through La Muerte Vive which keeps the audience informed and laughing. We open with a welcome and costume contest encouraging audience participation,” says Espinoza about the show. The creators hope their audience will walk away with a new found love of live theater productions.

The location where La Muerte Vive will take place also holds special significance. The Million Dollar Theatre is located on historic Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles. The theatre was built in 1917 by Sid Grauman of Grauman’s Chinese Theater fame. The Broadway corridor where the theatre is located is considered to be the birthplace of vaudeville and cinematic entertainment in Los Angeles.

In 1949 Frank Fouce, a Spanish language theatre owner and film distributor, purchased the theatre and it quickly became popular among the Latino community in Los Angeles. During the 1950’s and 1960’s the theatre became a stage and film venue exclusively for Spanish speaking audiences. The theatre hosted famous Mexican movie stars such as Dolores del Rio, Maria Felix, Cantinflas and Vicente Fernandez. The theatre also hosted variety shows and live performances by La India Maria, and Tintan. Mexican actor and singer Antonio Aguilar often performed and worked with his rodeo horses on the stage.

Currently the Million Dollar Theatre is part of Bring Back Broadway – a ten-year partnership between city and business leaders, local residents and downtown property owners to renovate the theater and revitalize the area.

La Muerte Vive is being billed as “rock opera meets cabaret” and it hopes that its performance at the Million Dollar Theater will bring back audiences to the Broadway Corridor.

Espinoza has been successful in merging art and business and has received strong support from local restaurants, shops and other businesses. She encourages everyone who buys a ticket to the show to support La Cita Bar, Radio Toxiko, Citizen LA, Corralejo Tequila, Salon on Main, Coba Aguas Frescas, Weilands Brewery, Downtown Art Walk, Urth Café, LA Downtown News and the Old Bank District which provided space for a pop-up gallery called La Muerte Vive Experience.

To promote the event to Downtown residents, Espinoza and her team have built and installed altars and giant puppets throughout Downtown Los Angeles as promotional tools for the show. The altars currently up are located at La Cita Bar, Border Grill, Las Perlas, Mas Malo, Casa y Cocina, and Urth Café.

“Downtown Los Angeles has opened its doors and we are truly grateful,” Espinoza says.

La Muerte Vive is written and directed by Tony Dominguez with music by Santos de Los Angeles at the Million Dollar Theatre 307 S. Broadway Los Angeles, CA 90003. November 2nd, 2011. Doors open at 3 pm, show starts at 7 pm and ends at 11 pm. Tickets $10 – $45.

NEW DATED ADDED: Saturday, November 5th!

For more information go to La Muerte Vive