THIS LAND

Company of Angels
Los Angeles

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A deep, painful, joyful story about one extended California family with roots in different parts of the world, who make their home on the same plot of Southern California land over 150 years. Los Angeles native and Mexican-American playwright, Evangeline Ordaz, crafts a rich and complex web of diverse characters from Los Angeles’ Latino, African-American, Anglo, and Native American communities who co-exist as if time were a wheel that constantly doubles back on itself. Through triumph and despair these families discover how deeply they are rooted in the dreams of their ancestors and the land on which they stand. Directed by Company of Angels artistic director, Armando Molina, This Land debuts on October 20, at Company of Angels, Los Angeles’ oldest professional theater. A host of old curses and blessings, traditions and recipes, loves and betrayals, conspire to threaten successive displacements. As the story unfolds, each successive generation grapples with their claim to the land on which they live. This Land takes place through the years; 1843, 1848, 1949, 1965, 1992, on what is now a residential street in Watts. “What’s so exciting about this play is that it’s not your typical history play. The stories are intimate and small yet they seem to whisper a big question so pertinent to Los Angeles today – “Is gentrification just another form of manifest destiny?” comments Artistic Director, Armando Molina. Richard Azurdia (My Mañana Comes at Fountain Theatre, Backyard at Echo Theater Company, Bill & Joan at Sacred Fools, one of 54 “fascinating Angelenos” profiled by LA Weekly’s 2015 People issue) stars as Tomas and Fidel Avila. Niketa Calame (voice of young Nala in Disney’s Animated Feature The Lion King, The Color Purple at Celebration Theater, Ain’t Misbehavin at ICT) portrays Leslie Parker/Mel Miller/Pepe, Ian Alda (Lieutenant of Inishmore at Mark Taper Forum, Broadway Bound at La Mirada and Odyssey Theater) takes on the role of Patrick Dalton/James and Dalton Hill, LeShay Tomlinson Boyce (Hellcab and Seven Red Neck Cheerleaders at Elephant Theater Company, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at Mark Taper Forum, Nominated for a NAACP Theater Award for Insurrection Holding History) plays Leola Parker/Sharon Curtis. Jeff Torres (Theatre: Henry IV, Love’s Labour’s Lost, TV: Criminal Minds, Telenovela) plays Enrique Avila/Ricardo Reyes, Cheryl Umana (Latino Theatre Company, Artists at Play at LATC, Kaiser Educational Theatre) plays Toya/Della, and Johanna McKay (performed in several productions at Circle X, and The Rubicon Theatre) plays Maeve Hilman. Scenic and Lighting Design by Justine Huen, Costume design by Manee Leija, Sound Design by Becca Kessin, and Video Design by Benjamin Durham. Heather McClane is the Assistant Stage Manager/Props and the Production Stage Manager is Daniel Munoz. Ordaz is a UC Berkeley-trained attorney who practiced public interest law before becoming a full-time playwright and television writer. As an attorney she has practiced immigration, fair housing litigation, criminal appeals, and human rights law both in the United States and Mexico. Ordaz’s play This Land was first commissioned by the Center Theater Group which produced a public reading in February 2015. Her play Visitors’ Guide to Arivaca was featured at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ New Play Summit and was the subject of a December 2006 cover story in American Theater Magazine. Borderlands commissioned Visitor’s Guide, which also saw production by Teatro Vision in San Jose and Company of Angels Theater in Los Angeles. Company of Angels also produced Ordaz’s play Bordering on Love. Evangeline is currently a writer on the Starz drama Vida, the Netflix drama Seven Seconds, and the BET drama In Contempt. She recently completed a film about the underground music scene in East L.A. for Odd Lot Entertainment. Molina is a director and writer with a background in theater development. His recent directing credits include The Long Road Today by Jose Cruz Gonzalez at South Coast Repertory, Distracted by Lisa Loomer at TheaterWorks, in Palo Alto, California, Visitors Guide to Arivaca by Evangeline Ordaz at Teatro Vision, San Jose, California and Company of Angels. Hippie Mexicana aka Digging Rios by Evangeline Ordaz at Borderlands Theater; Sissy by Ricardo Bracho at Company of Angels in Los Angeles, Anna In The Tropics by Nilo Cruz at PCPA Theaterfest in Santa Maria California; Living Out By Lisa Loomer at TheatreWorks and at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, The Waiting Room by Lisa Loomer at Company of Angels in Los Angeles, Conjunto by Oliver Mayer at Borderlands Theater Company in Tucson, Arizona, Rocio by Oliver Mayer at King King in Hollywood. Armando received national recognition from the NEA and the Theater Communications Group as a recipient of their Career Development Program for Directors. Before leaving to freelance as a director, Armando was a member of the Cornerstone Theater ensemble. Armando co-founded Latins Anonymous, the critically acclaimed Latino Comedy Group, whose plays were published by Arte Publico Press and continue to be performed nationally. Founded in 1959 by a group of television and film actors that included Richard Chamberlain, Leonard Nimoy and Vic Morrow, Company of Angels is the oldest professional theater in Los Angeles. As such it has a revised mission to provide a space for the voices and audiences neglected by the major regional theaters. Company of Angels now produces original work by professional theater artists who reflect the communities that make up the City of Los Angeles and engages residents from low-income communities including Boyle Heights and Skid Row to develop original theater pieces for performance. In this way CoA re-envisions theater to reflect and respond to the richness, diversity, and complexity that is Los Angeles, entertaining new audiences and serving the City of Angels.

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"...under Molina’s direction, the ensemble steps to the plate, with textured portrayals that make up for any lack of depth on the page."

"In "This Land," at The Company of Angels, playwright Evangeline Ordaz, uses a parcel of earth to structure a breathtakingly ambitious history of this city and its people that stretches over a century and a half."

"Although the issues are laid out masterfully and intriguingly, I longed for the hyperactive stage to stand still for a moment or two and allow each character half a minute to voice a poetic address to his or her unique personal and historical predicament."

"Ms. Ordaz has constructed an intricate jigsaw puzzle of a plot with a copious array of layers—but it all becomes crystal clear by the closing scene which brings everything brilliantly full-circle! Along the way, we’re introduced to a plethora of rich, complex, and varied characters who encompass a multitude of cultures and ethnicities."

"Not only will This Land likely send you home wanting to learn more about Watts beyond the riots of ’65, it may well have you returning with friends and family in tow. L.A. theater doesn’t get more edifying, relevant, or impactful than this."

"This Land is — to date — I think the best play I’ve seen all year, and it is close up there for best show (and that’s putting it against Hamilton). Especially if you love history or love Los Angeles, this is a play that you must see. It tells the story well, it educates its audience, it makes the audience think and see the city in a different way. It does what a play is supposed to do: tell you a story, draw you in, and not only entertain but elucidate. Additionally, it also does something to address a common complaint about theatre in Los Angeles: It tells a story about Los Angeles, to audiences that reflect Los Angeles."

"What began as a commission by Center Theatre Group for Mexican-American playwright, Evangeline Ordaz, to write about the changing demographics of Los Angeles has morphed into a play that’s powerful and compelling. This new play, This Land, presented by Company of Angels, tackles 150 years of gentrification through the plight of fifteen characters living on the same piece of land generations apart. This play ingeniously weaves socioeconomic politics, L.A. history and pure gather-‘round-the-campfire storytelling to connect the dots among past, present and future leaving audiences to confront issues that are ever-present in our society."

"Ordaz and director Armando Molina, with a truly knock-out ensemble, make it seem easy. The action of the narrative is very clear with vivid characters and naturalistic dialogue. In addition to Spanish and English, there is a further linguistic surprise: one of the main stories is presented partly in Tongva (with super-titles), an extinct Uto-Aztecan language...The character-craft in transformation of speech and physicality is wonderful — and in some cases shocking. These performers pull off an almost mediumistic illusion and become “transparent things through which the past shines!” - RECOMMENDED"

"Evangeline Ordaz, in her tenderly wrought plea for peace which is also a strident declaration of her faith in humanity, asks us to consider the possibility that it is not enough to open our homes or our kitchens or our checkbooks. Products of migration and immigration, we carry our most secret homes like ancestral prayers in our hearts. It is these we must truly open to one another before all is lost. This is theater Los Angeles, our nation, our world needs. Now."

"Prior to writing, Ordaz interviewed African-Americans who migrated out of the South, LA’s native Tongva descendants, Latinos and African-Americans who currently live in South LA, and also read a number of books about the impact that Spanish colonization had on the native population. The result is an interesting and educational play that sends the audience home with a palpable feeling of belonging. If you have invested on this land and if you have contributed to its development, you have the right to feel a strong claim to its soil, its resources, its culture, and its economics. This land is your land, and if you want to learn why, go see this play."

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