T-t-talkin’ ‘bout Migration

by Michael Premsrirat
of The Los Angeles Theatre Center in Los Angeles, CA
Volume IV. May-June 2012

Migration in time
The Latino American Theater Company (LATC) is “migrating” the show to fall 2013 to provide more time to raise the funding to produce “the road weeps, the well runs dry” in the manner it deserves. It will provide the theater with another year to marshal their community partners to develop an audience to welcome the show, as well as involve more community organizations throughout the Southland.

Migration of peoples
Even though LATC is no longer the first stop of the play’s rolling world premiere, they still firmly believe that Los Angeles will be the ideal venue for the show’s themes of migration and identity. This city is home to one of the most culturally diverse populations in the United States, shaped by the migration of peoples from all over the world–particularly the Pacific Rim, Latin America, the Middle East. While Los Angeles has been described by Mike Davis in his landmark City of Quartz as “Fortress L.A.,” a collection of socioeconomically distinct enclaves, an “architectural prison,” divided by freeways, Los Angeles also epitomizes the “California dream” of opportunity and reinvention of the self, a trope found in Al Jolson songs and Steinbeck novels, made real by the migration of African Americans seeking work during World War II, Latinos fighting for a better life (even though they were here first … as Guillermo Gomez-Peña stated, “We didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us”), and the resettlement of Koreans after the Cold War divided their home country. We are all different, but we all want the same thing, and living in close proximity, have we figured out how to get along? Upon the 20th anniversary of the L.A. Riots, which brought tensions between Caucasians, African Americans and Korean Americans to a head, Angelenos are reminded that our diversity can divide us, and we must work harder to make it our collective strength. The conflict between Black Freedmen and Seminole Indians at the core of “the road weeps” dramatizes this culture clash experienced daily, and that makes it even more necessary for LATC to produce this show.

Migration of Place
Davis saw Los Angeles as a city that is a singular product of the migration of diverse cultures and the shaping of the architectural environment through the conflict of political and economic forces. Downtown Los Angeles, where LATC is located, is a salient example of the city’s history of rising and falling fortunes. The Historic Core and Old Bank District is now Gallery Row, the result of the most recent and most successful attempt to redevelop the area. Previous attempts over the last several decades had failed to revitalize a district that had more in common with nearby Skid Row since the Great Depression. The Los Angeles Theatre Center is happy to be the focal point of Gallery Row as an arts and cultural destination. And cultural work, such as the road weeps, helps them create a community in a neighborhood that still seeks its new identity.

But what are readers’ thoughts about how LATC can foster a dialogue about this cultural dialectic in the context of the play? We would appreciate any input regarding the topic or who could contribute.

Post your comments and thoughts to LATC’s Facebook page!



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