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A homecoming of sorts for Watts theater at Metro rail stations

A Watts theater group performs for the 4th straight year under a Metro program that promotes the use of light rail, this time at 2 Blue Line stations in Watts.

May 26, 2013|By Dalina Castellanos, Los Angeles Times
  • Jessica Cornejo, center, performs Sunday with, from left, Ryan Vincent Anderson, Erica Peeples and Wynne Henry at a Metro Blue Line station underneath the 105 Freeway in Watts as part of a Metro program that promotes the use of light rail. The half-hour Watts Village Theater Co. presentations, performed at the Willowbrook and Watts Towers stations, were written by the actors themselves and explored the theme of home.
Jessica Cornejo, center, performs Sunday with, from left, Ryan Vincent… (Christina House, For the…)

"I'm home," a group of actors chanted on Sunday to beats hammered out on plastic buckets at a Metro Blue Line station in South-Central.

For many members of the Watts Village Theater Company, the location was indeed home. Actors recited poems about growing up in nearby neighborhoods.

The performance at the Willowbrook station marked the fourth straight year the theater company has appeared under a Metro program called Meet Me @Metro, which promotes the use of light rail. The first three years, the group appeared at Union Station downtown and near Long Beach and Pasadena.

This year, the theater company went home, back to its namesake neighborhood. "Our concept was to bring people into Watts who wouldn't usually have a reason to come," said Lynn Manning, the company's artistic director.

The company performed separate productions — one at Willowbrook and the other at the next stop up the line, the 103rd Street/Watts Towers station. The idea was for the audience to ride between performances.

Many people did. But not Alexis Macnab and Paula Rebelo, recent graduates of the California Institute of the Arts. They drove from their respective homes in Echo Park and Valencia — and chuckled sheepishly as they explained that they also drove between the theater performances instead of riding the train for one stop.

The half-hour theatrical presentations were written by the actors themselves and explored the theme of home.

"Under the 105," aptly named because the Willowbrook station is situated under the 105 Freeway, was a combination of spoken word and song. At the Watts Towers station, "Scattered Joy" combined interpretive dance and short vignettes peppered with rap.

Actress Pat Payne is not from South-Central. But she said riding the Metro made her think of home.

"It's interesting to see the changes in the neighborhoods [through the Metro's window] and notice the contrasts and connections to your own home," Payne said.

The performances drew about two dozen people at each stop. Many of the spectators were connected in some way to the theatrical company, as family members, board members and staff came out to see and support the cause.

Some onlookers just happened by. One woman clutching a shopping cart, 67-year-old Lula Owens, said she was on the way to the grocery store when she noticed a crowd gathering.

"It's been a long time since I saw live theater, and this was definitely worth the wait," Owens said.

dalina.castellanos@latimes.com

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