Ruben Amavizca-Murúa and Alex Angeles
Rubén Amavizca-Murúa founded the Grupo Teatro de Sinergia at the Frida Kahlo Theater in 1994. For the past 20 years, the theater has been one of the premiere producers of bilingual theater in Los Angeles. It's also become a cultural home for the Rampart District community, providing classes and workshops in Theater, Photography, and Animation. One such beneficiary of that commitment to community is Alex Angeles.
Alex grew up in the neighborhood around the theater. His father, a key grip, saw the theater in passing and noticed an advertisement for acting classes. Alex didn't have a particular interest in acting, but the theater was walking distance from his house, so he decided to join. He caught the bug and has been working with the Frida Kahlo ever since. His first play was "I Killed Pancho Villa" when he was 14 years old. Alex is currently performing in Situación Desaparecido, conceived and directed by Amavizca-Murúa, about the 43 students who were taken from Ayotzinapa, a school in rural Iguala, Mexico.
"A lot of people that go into theater companies, audition, get the part, and work with the director…That's how that mentorship works. I was a kid that went to class, never thought I would get to do a play. When [Ruben] first asked to do Women of Juarez, not to audition but to just be in it, it was a great feeling. That he trusted me with the character and then asked me to do it again this year…it's definitely a unique experience." – Alex Angeles
Nobuko Miyamoto and June Kaeswith
Nobuko Miyamoto, founder of the multicultural arts organization Great Leap, will be in conversation with June Kaewsith (Jumakae), a multidisciplinary arts educator and organizer based in Long Beach, CA. The two artists met while participating in Collaboratory VIII, a free mentorship program designed to develop future arts leaders in Los Angeles. They eventually went on to collaborate on The Air We Breathe (TAWB), a collection of pieces based on conversations with various Long Beach community members. Created as part of Great Leap's Eco-Art Initiative, which promotes environmental awareness and activism, TAWB explored the environmental effects on the health and well being of those living in the port city.
On creating work with community members: "People are experts of their own lived experience…when they share it, they can make decisions on their own behalf, as opposed to "experts" and teachers coming in and telling them what's best for them. I learned from Great Leap about that. Instead of seeking actors, [it's important to] seek people with stories, and empower them to put [their stories] on the stage." –June Kaeswith
"We need to do more partnering and developing of relationships to guide and direct and then, to hand off…[I was] in Japan recently, and a student came to a panel. This young man stood up and said 'I want to carry your burden.' That's what we must do – pass it on." – Nobuko Miyamoto
Lynn Manning and Donald Jolly
Watts Village Theater Company founder Lynn Manning first worked with writer/performer Donald Jolly on the development of Riot/Rebellion, a play that looks at the 1965 Watts Riots from multiple perspectives of those directly affected by the event. Jolly had first worked with Watts Village Theater Company while attending graduate school at USC. "People had been talking Lynn's name up ever since I moved to L.A… When the chance came to be anywhere near his orbit, I jumped on it!" Manning contributed to the piece as a witness interviewee early on before becoming a dramaturg. Not familiar with Jolly's work prior to their collaboration on Riot/Rebellion, he was soon impressed with Jolly's "dedication to the multiple truths that exist around a subject or situation… He didn't make this grand effort to twist mold and judge what was there, but took what was there and created something extraordinary."
On how his work responds to the needs of his community: "I've always had a need to address issues of social justice, on personal or community levels. It'd be difficult for me to find a piece of work that didn't dive headlong into some issue - either at hand or by some historic linkage metaphorically. Everything I do has something to say about where we've been, where we are, or where we're going. And maybe what we ought to be trying to do about where we are and where we're going." – Lynn Manning
Randy Reinholz, Liz Frances, and Rob Vestal
Randy Reinholz is the Producing Artistic Director and Co-Creator of Native Voices at the Autry, the U.S.'s only Equity theater company that focuses exclusively on producing work by Native American, Alaska Native and First Nations playwrights. He is the author of Off the Rails, a play adapted from Shakespeare that explores the history of government-mandated acculturation of native youth. Native Voices ensemble members Elizabeth Frances and Rob Vestal will join Reinholz to share about the new work, their expanding ensemble, and the development and evolution of creating work that focuses on "issues as they relate to conversation in Indian Country."
"This theater company has become an artistic home for me and many others. This is a company who's artistic directors have devoted the last 20+ years to helping nurture Native artists, and cultivate plays so that there is a written dramatized history of the experiences of underrepresented people." - Elizabeth Frances