'A great gray blank" is what might strike the visitor to Southeast Los Angeles, the mammoth industrial zone that stretches from downtown on either side of the Santa Ana Freeway. Who would live there? "S.E.L.A.," a docu-theater piece care of the TheatreWorker's Project at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, answers the question.
People looking for good-paying, steady industry jobs flocked to the area in the '20s and '30s, as everyone from Purex to Bethlehem Steel opened production plants (the eventual closing of Bethlehem, causing thousands of layoffs, inspired TheatreWorker's first project, "Lady Beth").
Recent plant closures are what trigger the retrospective slant of Rob Sullivan's script, but "S.E.L.A" goes beyond the specific tragedy of "Lady Beth" to take in the whole town around it.
It can't be such a bad place--most of the likable performers, usually telling their own stories of the good and bad times, live there. One of them is singer Ruben Guevara, whose group Con Safos celebrates swinging Whittier Boulevard and jazzy Central Avenue. Not such a gray blank, after all.