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Theater department remembers L.A. riots in virtual production

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Destinee Mondragon
Staff Writer

The University of La Verne’s theater department is meeting the moment with a virtual production of “Twilight, Los Angeles 1992,” which features stories and experiences from the Los Angeles riots in 1992, told in monologues.

This play came out of interviews that Anna Deveare Smith conducted during and after the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The riots in South Los Angeles began after a jury acquitted four Los Angeles Police Department officers for use of excessive force in the arrest and beating of motorist Rodney King. The beating had been videotaped and shown widely on TV.

Smith spoke with individuals including Rodney King’s aunt, social activists in Los Angeles, Korean business owners whose shops were burned down and destroyed, and bystanders to the riots that went on for a week in April and May of that year.

She took these interviews and placed them in a sequence to tell the stories of those affected by the riots.

Alma Martinez, associate professor of theater, is directing the play, which shows a variety of perspectives on people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, designed to give the audience a chance to see the various points of view of the conflict between different races such as African Americans, Koreans, and Caucasians.

“This production of ‘Twilight’ is so important for our community because instead of letting the tragedies that happened fade away, we can make sure that this stays relevant forever,” said Mitchell Calderilla, sophomore musical theater major.

The message behind the production is to present the different people’s stories and life experiences in America. These stories vary from interactions with different races and their behavior toward one another and is the true essence of the play.

“You use your artistic talents to fight against injustice and oppression and make your voice be heard. The art of theater can be used to tell stories about anything, but using it as a medium to speak out the injustices this country has seen is a privilege that I will never take for granted,” Calderilla said.

Calderilla portrays four characters in the production and has seen a relevancy in the play to our political issues today. He connected the recent protests in the Black Lives Matter movement due to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, as well as many other people of color that were murdered at the hands of racist bigots and police brutality.

“Not only has police brutality negatively progressed since 1992, but the exact same events as 1992 happened in 2020 with no justice or not enough justice being served for what crimes were committed,” Calderilla said.

Mounting this production, in a time of remote learning for the University, has required the theater department to find creative alternatives with cast and crew all working from home. The decision to do a virtual streaming of the production came about when the budget of renting and buying equipment was expensive.

“Though corona has placed some difficulties in front of us, the cast and crew have really pulled together to make a great show,” said John Paul, sophomore theater and film major.

Finding the equipment and budget for the production has been one of the few struggles Yumi Cho, stage manager, producer, and assistant director, said.

“Giving cast members in the production equipment such as green screens and sound equipment would be around $700-$800 each,” said Cho, a senior theater major and Campus Accelerated Program for Adults student.

There was lighting equipment, ring lights, secondary sound equipment and other things rented in order to move this production over. For cast members Cho said their families help set up the cameras during rehearsals and the actors themselves became their own tech, hair and makeup stylists.

Julieta Del Toro, sophomore theater major, said this experience, learning to do a production in a virtual setting. has taught her a lot.

“One of the big things that I learned was the difference between on stage acting and on screen acting,” Del Toro said. “With having to be mindful of your decisions on the camera lens and working with a much smaller space to rehearse than a stage.”

Del Toro plays three characters in the play. She hopes the turnout for the virtual production will be better than live shows at the University.

“I feel like now that it’s virtual and it’s so easy to just send the link via text or email. It’s much easier to spread the word on the production through parents sending it to their siblings than sending the word along,” Del Toro said.

“It’s just a whole network of inviting audience members, and they don’t even have to leave the comfort of their own home.”

The show will be streaming Nov. 5-8. For tickets and more information, visit showtix4u.com/event-details/40225.

Destinee Mondragon can be reached at destinee.mondragon@lavernne.edu.

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