by Fanny Garcia
pLAywriting in the city
Guillermo Aviles-Rodriguez is the Artistic Director of Watts Village Theater Company and he is quite busy these days. He and his staff are planning their third Meet Me @Metro. I caught up with him recently and asked him some questions about this “interactive and trans-disciplinary theatrical journey” on Los Angeles’ public transportation system.
Guillermo, how does the City of Los Angeles inspire you? Los Angeles for me has always been a type of port. People dock here to recreate themselves or to become famous or to escape. I am sure there are many other cities that have these qualities but Los Angeles is the only city where I have lived where this is so. Ports are never static they move and change perpetually. Los Angeles never just is but rather is always becoming. I look around my City of Angels, and I see so many people who live in the world this city has created but not many of them have been able to become of the world. Our cars and gadgets keep us insulated perhaps protected, from others in the city. We have so much technology here, so much progress and achievement, but we also have a deep fear and shame in Los Angeles. It is this maelstrom of isolation that inspires me to fight with the only weapon I have any skill at wielding- the theater.
What is Meet Me @Metro? When did it begin? Meet Me @Metro is an interactive, trans-disciplinary theatrical journey for both incidental and traditional audiences. It takes place aboard and around the Los Angeles
Metro Rail Transit System. Meet Me @Metro is our unique attempt to bring live performance to people who would otherwise not be able to see it, and to coax traditional theater-goers out of the theater to places they my not go otherwise.
The seed for Meet Me @Metro came to me around 2005 after some interactions with both Watts youth who despite being in their late teens had never traveled outside a ten mile radius of their community and life long Angelinos who had never seen the Watts Towers. By 2006 Teeko Parran our Managing Director and Meropi Peponides our Associate Producer were writing the grants to make it happen.
What has been your most memorable experience in organizing Meet Me @Metro? I will tell you that what people say about never forgetting your first time is true. By the time Meet Me @Metro happened my head had been flattened by the amount of pats I had gotten from people who I had told about the project. So many people assumed that Metro’s gigantic bureaucracy would swallow us whole when we went to them with this crazy idea. But when I was standing in the Union Station tunnel hearing the music and seeing the crowd, I held my hands over my heart.
What do you want your audience to get out participating in Meet Me @Metro? At the most basic level I want people to get affordable, quality entertainment that also serves as a mechanism for expanding the ridership of Los Angeles’ Metropolitan Transit System. We need to get people out of their wheeled coffins!
It would be grand to have a transient community that will form around a theatrical exploration of our cities transportation system. For the routine commuter, I hope that when they comes across Meet Me @Metro they gain a new perspective on and a deeper connection to the Metro through a positive and unique experience. We want to reinforce the message that art lives everywhere, and with us all. The people who witness art forming are as much a part of the process as the ones who craft it.
What type of artists are you looking for to perform at Meet Me @Metro? The type of artist that we are looking for to be a part of Meet Me @Metro is one who can handle the heat of the sun as well if not better than the heat from stage lights- and if the artist has a rail pass and a sense of humor that helps.
Why did you choose to do the event on the Gold Line this year? The real point with Meet Me @Metro is to highlight secreted and segregated communities.
The theme this year is “Uncovering Los Angeles’ Hidden Treasures” and so as a Salesian [High School] boy who romped around in Boyle Heights and made East LA a second home, it was important for me to be able to bring people from outside the community to see the rich culture that exists around the Gold Line.
Another factor that excited me was the high concentration of museums and performance venues around the Gold Line, it is by far the most performance friendly rail line we have been on.
Where do you want to go next year?Watts Village Theater Company (and I personally) only move our art in one direction and that is up. If we cannot make each Meet Me @Metro better than the last we are in trouble.
When Meet Me @Metro was first conceived it was called Meet Me @the Metro and it was to be a festival model where multiple companies performed simultaneously along all of the Metro rail lines during the course of a weekend and where people walked around with iPods that audience would load with a designed soundscape that included music, narration and sound cues. The audience would plan their own adventure and would embark on a type of self-guided tour. This is the direction where we are headed next year.
Meet Me @Metro (M3-III) performances will take place sometime between June and September, 2012 for four performances on Saturdays and Sundays all day. Watts Village Theater Company is currently seeking solo performers, theater companies and musicians for the event. You can submit an application here.