Has Anything Changed?

By Sarah Spitz

Share Story on:

Has Anything Changed?
© 2023 Craig Schwartz Photography Lovensky Jean-Baptiste (center) and (from left to right) Sabina Zúñiga Varela, Lisa Reneé Pitts, Jeanne Sakata, and Hugo Armstrong in Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 at Center Theatre Group / Mark Taper Forum.
I never thought that a solo act by one of the most extraordinary theatrical documentarian/performers of our time, Anna Deavere Smith, could be successfully revised into a multi-actor production. But Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 that just closed at the Mark Taper Forum surpassed all my expectations. It is probably not surprising that many of the issues resulting in one of America’s deadliest, costliest and most destructive civil uprisings, following the Rodney King verdicts all across Los Angeles, have not changed much. I remember how the repetition across all media of the George Holliday video—the first truly viral video ever—capturing the LAPD beating of black driver Rodney King on camera became almost numbing. But seeing it on stage in this production, I was horrified all over again. Brutal doesn’t begin to cover it.
The acquittal of the officers involved in the beating set off the riot that saw an innocent white trucker, Reginald Denny, being pulled from his truck and beaten nearly to a pulp by an angry mob, another video horrifying to witness decades later. Bless the brave souls who rescued and saved his life.

Just as hard to experience, in the same month as the Rodney King beating, was the security camera video of Korean convenience store owner, Soon Ja Du, shooting and killing black teenager Latasha Harlins for attempting to steal an orange juice. Her voluntary manslaughter verdict was suspended, with the judge fining her $500 and community service, outraging the black community and resulting in the mass destruction of Korean-owned businesses during the riot.

What’s not painful is the strength of each actor’s performances in multiple roles in Twilight Los Angeles, 1992. Anna Deavere Smith originally conducted dozens of interviews and shaped their own words into this play. She portrayed—uncannily—every person she spoke with, in their tone of voice and character, including members of the community, leaders, activists, politicians, academics and the officers who beat Rodney King, while attempting to unravel how things turned out that way.

These five actors—Hugo Armstrong, Lovensky Jean-Baptiste, Lisa Renee Pitts, Jeanne Sakata, and Sabina Zúñiga Varela—have achieved something remarkable; a play that is both new and old, as impactful as it was the first time when everything was still raw. They inhabited their characters even as they switched rapidly from one to another.

I have a personal interest in this play: because of it, KCRW, the public radio station where I spent my career, created “Which Way, L.A.?” with Warren Olney, a multiple-award-winning program that I co-produced in its first five years on air.
Has anything really changed in our racially-divided society, locally or nationally? I can’t honestly say it has. Can you?

The New Hammer Museum
The Hammer Museum is now a world-class destination for art goers, with its $90 million expansion and renovation, moving away from the great masters that Armand Hammer collected and toward the wild world of contemporary art. The lobby, now visible from the street on the corner of Wilshire and Westwood Boulevards, has added the former bank building next door, an outdoor space on Wilshire, and a gallery on the third floor to highlight contemporary works from its collection, a move spearheaded by museum director Ann Philbin.
Photo by Sarah Spitz. Partial view of “Network” by Chiharu Shiota at The Hammer Museum, through August 27, 2023.
Photo by Sarah Spitz. Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Hollywood Africans in Front of the Chinese Theater with Footprints of Movie Stars,” 1983.
The lobby is literally enmeshed in 800 pounds of a deep red yarn, interwoven throughout the space and up the stairs. Called “Network,” it’s an immersive piece by Chiharu Shiota, and you can choose from any number of interpretations—including a massive nest, the human body’s arterial system, our community and neural connections—subject only to your imagination.

In the building next door, Rita McBride has created a laser display called “Particulates,” using 16 high-intensity neon green laser beams to create a high energy field of focus. The space was partially left unfinished, adding to the dust that the laser light bounces off. Just outside is Sanford Biggers’ sculpture, “Oracle,” just look up from the sidewalk, it’s unmissable.

The new gallery of contemporary works is worth a trip all its own. “Together in Time” features newly-acquired works in diverse mediums by multi-ethnic emerging Los Angeles and international artists. It’s a revelation. You’ll see pieces by Mark Bradford, Noah Davis, Jimmie Durham, Lee Mullican (from 1951), Eleanor Antin, Nicole Eiseman, Christina Fernandez and dozens of others. Just go. You’ll get it. And it’s free! hammer.ucla.edu

Jean-Michel Basquiat:
King Pleasure
A fantastic four-gallery look at the life and works of the highly gifted but far-too-short-lived artist Jean-Michel Basquiat has been organized by his sisters. It’s a truly eye-popping and contextual exhibition of everything from his childhood drawings to the multi-million-dollar graffiti-esque street-art canvases and wood paintings he is renowned for. This is a family’s perspective, not a scholarly treatise and it’s truly refreshing.

There are re-creations of his family home and studio—and even his actual bicycle—with ample video interviews to explain what motivated his work, how he exploded onto the art scene...and left it too young. It’s at the Frank Gehry-designed The Grand LA, directly across from Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall. But try to find parking somewhere other than at The Grand, which is pricey to the point of absurdity. kingpleasure.basquiat.com

Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.

Share Story on:

OUT & ABOUT

spacer
< 
 >
Viewing 1 to 3 (of 20 items)

The Canyon Chronicle

Digital Paper
Thinking Out Loud
Latest News
Pandemic
All things connected
SOUL & COFFEE
MY CORNER OF THE CANYON
OPINION
EVENTS
HOLIDAY NEWSMAKERS
LIFESTYLE
ELECTIONS
Books
Astrology
ARTS
Commentary
Columnists
Covid diary
ENVIRONMENT
Featured
CALENDAR
Schools
Fires
Science
Health
Letters
Travel
OBITUARIES
Topanga historical society
Thanks Giving
Passages
WORSHIP SERVICES
DOG DAYS
SPOTLIGHT
WOMEN TAKING CHARGE IN CHANGING TIMES
SHOUTING OUT LOUD
COMMUNITY
OUT & ABOUT
AKUMAL DIARY
Arts & Culture
Butterfly Day
ECO-LIVING
BE WATER WISE
FIRST PERSON
GOVERNMENT AT WORK
HOLY DAYS OF RENEWAL
Movies
LONG DISTANCE LISTENING PARTY
Photography
Music
Pop Culture
Poetry
RUDE INTERRUPTIONS
SCHOOLHOUSE SCOOP
TO LOVE AND BE LOVED
Theatre & Dance
TOPANGA BEFORE TODAY
TRENDING
TOPANGA DAYS
WHAT’S HAPPENING?