Tuesday, January 31, 2017

La Palabra one seventeen. Zoot Suit Is Back. Teatro News.

This Circle Will Be Unbroken
Michael Sedano

180º of La Palabra's open circle seating plan. Harry, a regular open mic'er has the floor.

Karineh Mahdessian opens the reading to the enthusiastic applause of delighted poets and poetry lovers. The Sunday, January 29 meeting marks the third anniversary of Mahdessian's assuming the role of emcee and coordinator of the long-lived reading series at northeast Los Angeles' stimulating Avenue 50 Studio.

Ordinarily, Mahdessian elects to allow her guests to occupy the spotlight. These aren't ordinary times. Marking this, Karineh started the poetry with a piece from Suheir Hammad's collection, Born Palestinian, Born Black: & The Gaza Suite. Mahdessian's quiet reading of the powerful poem defines the ambience of the times, gives a solid perspective on the work that will follow.

The Open Mic

Today's agenda begins with volunteers to share a single piece. Diane Tirado, Jessica, Don Kingfisher Campbell, and Charles L. Davis (first foto, clockwise from upper left) share time with today's audience.

Open Mic clockwise from top left:
 Diane Tirado, Jessica, Don Kingfisher Campbell,  Charles L. Davis

I read a 500-word memoir about a ride up to a missile site during a raging snow storm. It was a spur of the moment decision that seemed appropriate, since one of today's spotlight readers is a Korean poet and the snow storm was part of my thirteen-month experience in that country. I should have brought my reading glasses. I mangled the text. Mee an hum, chum ("that's tough luck, pal" in pidgin.)

Also sharing the open mic spotlight are Albie Preciado, Aaron, Alex Hohmann, and Diedre. Preciado knows how to win hearts--he is the unofficial official baker of La Palabra. Today's wheat-based treats are a key lime shortbread and a tahini-based muffin. I whisper to him that shortbread is among the very few successful gluten-free cookies in existence.

Open Mic clockwise from top left:
Albie Preciado, Aaron, Alex Hohmann, Diedre 

Featured Poets

Four poets each get 15 minutes to share their work. Tanya Ko Hong is up first, Derek Brown follows, then Lisbeth Coiman and Caits Meissner. Mahdessian keeps the features on their toes while preventing the buildup of stress by calling them up in random order.

Tanya Ko Hong
Tanya Ko Hong blends immigrant humor with poetic elegance. In one narrative piece she relates the struggles of a Hangul speaker with English phonetics. The problems are not limited to words like "river," but more so to ill-trained teachers who correct, "river!" "liver." "River!" "That's what I said!" And the teacher points to her lips and says, watch my mouth, "river."

That style of instruction is torturous, more so than the absence of "r" in some tongues. Tanya articulates the sound with ease.

Tanya Ko Hong
Tanya Ko Hong

Derek Brown strings together his pieces with an interior monologue. "Self," I said to myself, "don't begin a reading with a strident political piece. Well..." Well is his hook transition into a stridently political piece. "Oh, no, self, you can't...." then he does. Brown uses the technique with aplomb, the narration seamlessly linked with the verse. A dynamic physical presence adds to his engaging ethos. 

Derek Brown

Derek Brown
Derek Brown

Lisbeth Coiman immigrated from Venezuela to Canada on her journey to the United States. Her politics and poetry make ideal couplings for effective poetry and memoirist prose. She shares a "spoken word" recitation from memory that energizes the house not just through rhythm and image but also because she seizes the floor performing on her feet. After this she takes a seat to read another poem then an extended memoir of citizenship, blackness, latinidad, and U.S. xenophobia.

Lisbeth Coiman

Lisbeth Coiman
Lisbeth Coiman

Caits Meissner closes the featured readers segment, sharing work from her newly released collection, Let It Die Hungry. As usual, I don't have any money so I'm unable to buy a copy. Drat, the work teems with the smell and feel of New York City. One piece recounts a confrontation on a subway. Looks deceive. Some cholas--though that's not the NYC term--and a middle-aged presumably anglo woman look to the narrator to be facing off. Sensing incipient violence from the youngsters, the narrator watches with unease. But this older woman has insight and her own history. The women end the meeting with a fist-bump.

Caits Meissner

Caits Meissner
Caits Meissner
La Palabra Hosted by Karineh Mahdessian meets at Avenue 50 Studio the last Sunday of every month. Check La Palabra's Facebook page for updates.

Caits Meissner, Tanya Ko Hong, Karineh Mahdesian, Derek Brown, Lisbeth Coiman

Serendipity is no accident. Writers from Las Lunas Locas, a writing group attended in force to support Karineh and La Palabra. I was pleased to gather las lunas for a group portrait with three  of today's featured poets.

Las Lunas Locas En Propria Persona

Tonight's The Night! Zoot Suit Returns to L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum

Curtain goes up at 8:00 p.m. on the revival of Luis Valdez' Zoot Suit. The musical, featuring music by Lalo Guerrero, debuted at the Taper as a festival piece in Gordon Davidson's innovative  New Theater for Now series. The production, featuring Daniel Valdez as el Pachuco was an instant hit. Zoot Suit returned as a main stage production featuring Edward James Olmos in the career-making pachuco role, with Valdez as Hank Reyna. That production was a gem of characterization, emotion, drama, dancing, everything good that can happen on stage happened. I'm sure that magic will return beginning with tonight's opening.

The Mark Taper Forum, celebrating its 50th Anniversary Season, brings this most celebrated of productions back to LA. It's a hot ticket. Slime, AKA brokers, are asking around $400.00 for a $75 seat. You can still find a seat via the Center Theater Group's sales page. Unlikely you'll get to sit with your gang, but the Amelia Taper Auditorium is a small house and everyone is close to the stage and within hailing distance of those across the hall.

LATC: The Raza Theater in El Lay

The Center Theater Group and the Mark Taper Forum are the elite venue for live teatro in the city, but the raza-operated Los Angeles Theater Center is far from rasquachi and merits support. The highly polished professional work at LATC offers Los Angeles' best bargain in live teatro, although Boyle Heights' Casa 0101 gives LATC and CTG a run for their money.

This season, LATC offers a special deal of three world premieres for $75.00. That's the price of a cheap seat to Zoot Suit.

Click here for LATC ticketing.

Rio Grande February: NHCC Events

For details on National Hispanic Cultural Center programming, visit the NHCC's website here (link).

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