The Vault Ensemble Celebrates Two Years of Edgy L.A. Theater

By Fanny Garcia


pLAywriting in the city

Watching just one of The Vault Ensemble’s shows makes you a fan. On January 12th, 2012 the group celebrated its two-year anniversary of performances by resurrecting some of their most popular characters.

The Vault Ensemble was created by Aaron Garcia and Fidel Gomez. In an interview with pLAywriting in the city’s Tony Bartolone, Gomez explained why The Vault Ensemble was started,  “We created the group based on what we perceived to be a need for local artists within our peer group to have an opportunity to work. Not in the industry sense of getting paid, but rather an opportunity to work on our craft as artists and give ourselves an opportunity to say what we want about the world.” Gomez and Garcia put together a workshop and challenged the actors who attended for nine weeks. The ones who survived it are the actors that make up The Vault Ensemble today. And because they are in Downtown L.A. at the Los Angeles Theater Center, the group uses the creative and gastronomically rich vibe of the Los Angeles Art Walk to bring in diverse audiences.

Last Thursday, The Vault celebrated two years worth of work with an audience comprised primarily of die-hard faithful. Before, during and after the performance fans enjoyed the almost-required staple of any theater production – free Charles Shaw Merlot. This hearty wine went well with a show that was rich with the happenings of a city like Los Angeles.

The Vault Ensemble is Fidel Gomez, Aaron Garcia, Brenda Banda, Stephen Buchanan, Sam Golzari, Esperanza Ibarra, Ted Lange IV, Vicki Syal and Jasmine Orpilla

The actors portrayed a smorgasbord of zany L.A. characters that included: the lady that sells you the sinfully delicious bacon wrapped hot dogs when you stumble out of a club at two o’clock in the morning; the frustrated and traffic trapped commuters on L.A’s many freeways.  Not to mention, the hostesses of seedy Mexican bars; cyclists run over by careless drivers, and bad rappers that travel with their own DJ. To these recurring characters the ensemble added Occupiers who camped out at L.A. City Hall because it “saves money on rent.”

The ensemble writes their own work and then offers it to their audience with gusto. They seem to ask, “You think you know LA? Well let’s see if you recognize these people.” And the audience does because whether you’re a transplant or a native to the City of Angels, these characters can’t be dismissed. The guffaws and laughter coming from the audience are hearty and sincere and it’s not just the cheap wine talking. It’s an appreciation for a job well done and fully fleshed out characters, despite the time limit of the show. As the lights came up last Thursday, several audience members exclaimed they wanted to see more and were surprised that forty minutes of performance had come and gone so quickly.

Actor Brenda Banda works the stage with with not just expertise, but the sassiness that her bright red lipstick calls for. Stephen Buchanan is spry and versatile. Jasmine Orpilla is the ensemble’s composer and infuses the performances with edgy ambience. And Vicki Syal brings the right amount of moxie to each of the characters she portrays. Her performances are akin to the type of characters made famous by actress Anjelica Huston, full of disdain but lovable nonetheless. The rest of the ensemble includes Sam Golzari, Esperanza Ibarra, Ted Lange IV, Aaron Garcia and Fidel Gomez. These five are the foundation on which the zaniness can take place.

The Vault Ensemble is an important part of L.A theatre and should be supported. It is in this type of theater that artists can truly create work that is both risqué and poignant. Stay tuned for more of their work by visiting their website at