It is a virtue of the Latin cultures that they do not sideline and sanitize the harsher aspects of life, and it is a credit to the 24th Street Theatre for bringing that viewpoint before L.A. audiences.
And now a sidebar:
L.A. is presently blessed with a citywide eruption of new districts, neighborhoods flourishing in miniature renaissances. Now some are not all that new, but rather have recently seemed to have hit their stride.
Case in point is the Santa Monica theatre district; it has finally begun to see the rise of eateries (“Dinner and a show,” very important!) and it also has the distinction of being Ground Zero for the Hollywood Fringe Festival, which is approaching world class status. Then there is the “Pico Arts District” roughly situated between La Cienega Blvd. and La Brea distinguished by the likes of Jeff Murray and Nicolette Chaffey’s seminal L.A. playhouse Theater/Theatre, home of the Rogue Machine Ensemble, and let’s not forget Sky’s Tacos always guaranteed to please. Then in the northern realm you have the Atwater Village with all its charms where Gates McFadden’s Ensemble Studio Theatre at the Atwater Village Theatre hoists the banner high.
But a worthy entry into this exclusive club is sprouting in the West Adams Historic District of which the 24th Street Theatre qualifies as the jewel in the crown. Housed in a renovated 1928 carriage house, Jay McAdams, Debbie Devine and the rest of the staff at the 24th Street Theatre are making a major contribution to the future of L.A. theatre by investing in audience building, first among their neighbors that is now expanded into a wider Latino audience. But, more importantly, perhaps for the development of potential audience-goers, via their Outlook program, they are exposing elementary school children citywide not just to theatre, but to exceptional theatre.
Coming up at the 24th Street Theatre is something of interest, “Hansel & Gretel Bluegrass”, the enduring children’s classic framed by the Great Depression and set to the rhythms of bluegrass, opens Saturday March 22, 2014. Yeah, I know, but I’m betting its well worth the wait.
Directly across from the “24th” located in an old silent era movie house is The Velaslavasay Panorama and the Velaslavasay Panorama Enthusiast Society.
Okay, a sidebar to the sidebar:
Back in the 18th and 19th centuries the exhibits of panoramic paintings were the IMAX 3-D of the day. These were massive art works some 50 feet tall and 400 feet in length that looped around to present the illusion to an audience of a 360⁰ environment. Commonly they depicted scenes of great battles or roving landscapes. One such panoramic experience consisted of unrolling a canvas presenting sights one would view sailing down the Mississippi and had its audience seated in boats placed along the stage.
Such shows were all the rage up until the advent of moving pictures, when these grand and enormous portraitures wound up with their canvases being cut up and sold for the fabric. Of the very few still in existence, the United States has two: “The Battle of Gettysburg” by Paul Philippoteaux which is now on view at the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center.
There is a panoramic exhibit at the Velaslavasay Panorama of course, it is a forlorn vista entitled “Effulgence of the North”. Now granted, it is not “50 feet tall and 400 feet long”, but what it lacks in gargantuan proportions it compensates for in visceral impact. (To enhance the experience, Marlene – aka “the little woman”, “squaw”, “better half”, “helpmeet”, “rib”, “sweet patoonie” – suggests reading “Fatal Journey – The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson”.)
Is it all on the square this “The Velaslavasay Panorama”?
Beats me. And frankly I don’t care.
If the “TVP” is taking its cue from the The Museum of Jurassic Technology that’s fine by me, for the “Society” has done a wonderful job of renovating the facility which includes a stage of striking craftsmanship and outdoor garden that is like a magical realm south of the 10 freeway. (Go and check out that garden – I kid you not!)
The neighborhood even has some eateries that deserve to be checked out, among them Pete’s Burgers, which is quick, cheap and pretty darn tasty.
So there you have it L.A., a new little corner of this magnificent city to be explored and enjoyed.