A middle aged man that sits by a hill near the East LA Civic Center Lake, blushes when Estela Garcia sits next to him, her top teeth protruding out of her mouth.
“I’m going to watch the ducks right here,” said Garcia, as she sat on Sunday next to a round middle-aged man with a backpack and cap. He sits by the East L.A. Civic Center lake every weekend, she says. Her and the Rogue Artists Ensemble met this man the week before during dress rehearsals for Meet Me @ Metro. Garcia, with binoculars over her neck and a bike helmet on her head, playfully tells him she looks forward to seeing him next week.
“Saturday didn’t show up. But Sunday, as we were bringing stuff to set up he was there.”
“‘I came today.’ he said. ‘I had to work yesterday.'”
This is the third year the Watts Village Theater Company has put on Meet Me @ Metro, a theater show that takes place on Metro rail lines, stations and in neighborhoods. This year’s performance has more than 100 performers, making it the largest number of artists involved. This is the first time the show has traveled on the Gold Line, and visited the Eastside, giving outsiders their first view of the neighborhood, and the light rail, and allowing locals to visit theater in places they most often frequent.
“Don’t have to go to theater to go to live event,” said Tanya Kane-Parry, co-founder and artistic director for Opera del Espacio. “Theater can happen anywhere, and is going on every single moment.”
The WVTC and many of the other companies involved practice a participatory type of theater called Esoteric theater, which in their interpretation uses the built environment as its stage. This mobile theater can be brought to communities that don’t normally have access to it, and if passersby want, they can come along for the ride.
“We are making theater for less and less people. Theater is in danger of becoming ballet and opera,” said Guillermo Aviles-Rodriguez, artistic director for the WVTC.
“Hidden Treasures,” the theme of this years show, looks to the past to understand the present and future of the neighborhood. Many of the performances mention the Jewish and Japanese descendants of Boyle Heights, Shows mention landmarks like the Breed Street Shul, and one actor playing the role of Jewish gangster Mickey Cohen, a local native.
Company of Strangers blended different generations of Boyle Heights residents in their performance where a female soldier killed in Afghanistan meets other ghost of past wars as they talk about what their Boyle Heights used to be.
The show is a spectacle, with various moving parts incorporating dance, music, and physical interpretative dance. When the show took place both on the Gold Line, accompanying bands like Olin tell stories of Boyle Heights, while the Watts Village Theater Company do their own rendition of Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” Powdered from head to toe, members of Opera del Espacio, a site specific performance troupe, bounce around in the light rail cars , reacting to the motion of the rail.
While the show costs $20 from beginning to end – the admission pays for a bag lunch, a metro day pass, and a wrist band that breaks audience members off to different tour groups – anyone can watch the shows at any point of the trip.
Most of Meet Me @ Metro 3 is geared to educating people that aren’t from the Eastside, with the audience only walking a few feet to the performances from the Metro station entrances. Yet, the East LA Civic Center stop was the most interactive of them all. Audience members while exposed to artist Ramiro Gomez’s cardboard cutouts representing images of the Latino immigrant community, and 15- foot puppets, there was a blend between art, and the life that resided there. Families already at the park were picnicking, the audience members bought elotes and raspados from street vendors that are usually there daily.
“That park is really different from anything outside of East La.” said Garcia, the clowned performer.
“It’s a very special kind of place.,” said Garcia.
Remaining shows include September 1-2, at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. The performances at 12p.m. Saturday, September 1, is pay-what you-can.
A 60 percent discount is available to Watts residents or those employed in the city.
Here are some photos of the event:
Correction: A previous post incorrectly identified Tanya Kane-Parry as the former artistic director. She is both the co-founder and artistic director of Opera del Espacio.