Friday, February 17, 2012

OCCUPY THE HEART, EDUCATE THE MIND


MOVEMENT SPAWNS PLAY FESTIVAL

Written By PT Rothschild

Boyle Heights, LA - Now running thru February 26, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, the Little Casa Theater located at 2009 E. First Street, LA. 90033, is the CASA 0101 presentation of Occupy The Heart. This new play festival features short skits written and performed by various individuals in this talented ensemble to tell the Occupy [LA] story from an 'on the ground' POV. As a person who covered the LA and SD camps, I decided to see what these playwrights wrought after spotting the ad in the Brooklyn & Boyle, a neighborhood print newspaper.
 
     As the OLA camp wound down in the final days, a feeling of containment spring forth. Having come to no terms with the city to move the camp forward or expand/remain sustainable, some of those within the camp sought to observe and record the moment as historical. It was an experiment in social democracy on many levels. Let's face it, Sports Fans, most of us don't have a clue about participating in a democracy because we don't have to. The collection of short plays/skits offered up in Occupy The Heart allows the non-Occupy LA camper to get a glimpse into the fablic of the Occupy [LAMovement.

     From the gritty level of the Temecula Calendar's first-hand press stories come well written, thought provoking skits from similiar on-the-ground observations from producers Miguel Garcia, Josefina Lopez, and a number of cast members who either wrote, directed, or acted in OTH, hence the poignant and sometimes humorous Occupy slices of life. There was one face in the OTH crew that was somewhat familiar to me however. Paulina Gonzalez, one of the playwrights, spent time in the trenches at Occupyoutreach protest marches, speaking at the GAs (general assembly meeings that promoted actual democracy), and was part of the Peacekeepers (the OLA internal camp security that was the reaason why there was no smell of urine in the air, rampant crime, or lice epidemic as was reported by some city hall watercooler voices) on the last night when some 1400 LAPD moved to evict/arrest approximately 300 'free' citizens who were excercising their First Amendment right as prescribed in the Constitution.

     Opening night of OTH was sold out but yours truly was there for the second night's performance. Personally it has been a long time since I attended a play. For those who have never seen a staged play, it is much like a high school assembly program, except done by really professioonal and truly talented people, who aren't in high school of course. The intimacy of seeing live actors onstage a mere few feet from your face telling a story as if you weren't there is exciting, revealing, and in tune with the times, in real 3D.

     OTH is told in two acts. Act 1 consists of 5 skits and Act 2 is made up of six skits, with a 15 minute intermission between acts. In an 'off-Broadway' bare bones underground style, the experienced cast pulled off isolating the skits from one another during blackouts as the stage was dressed for the next skit perfectly, allowing the audience just the right amount of time to digest the politcal content they had just been shown.

     Never heavy-handed, this entire production was not happichance. Artistic Director Josefina Lopez expressed, "After the National Defense Authorization Act was passed on December 31, 2011, I becameextremely concerned for our civil rights and freedom of expression. (I) felt we needed to create a show to make people aware of the Occupy Movement... the importance of people speaking up... (and of) fighting tyranny and evil. REICHSTAG!!! Is it 1934 Germany? Or is it 1774 America? It's our choice... We are like frogs in cold water not realizing we are slowly being boiled to death."

     Producer/Sound Miguel Garcia added, "We held a call for submission in December and OTH was created in less than two months. This incredible group of playwrights, actors, directors, and crew members worked diligently to present (those) 11 works. We hope audiences will be inspired to strive for change ...and discover that they are capable of contributing something remarkable and possitive to this  world, bridging the gap between the 99 and 0ne percent.

     Along with the names already mentioned, the following were all instumental in presenting this outstanding live production;

Vilma Villela, Patricia Zamorano, Miles Brandman, Josef Lemoine, Jessica Martinez, Suzanne Santos, Hector Rodriguez, Angela Cruz, Claudia Duran, Alexander Aguila, Nina Harada, Armond Kinard, Talbott Lin, Evelyn Lorena, Andy Martinez Jr., Jeremy Mascia, Carla Vega, Julieta Garza, Anthony Aguilar, George Villanueva, Sergio Sanchez, Matt Sedillo, Monica Hernandez, Sophia Sanchez, and Emmanuel Deleage.
 
     "CASA 0101 is ...one of the few ...theaters in LA that give(s) new and emerging playwrrights the opportunity to touch on such poignant, relevant issues ...like the Occupy Movement."

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