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REVIEW: "Chalk Lines," an Immersive Audio Play Tour — Chalk Repertory Theatre

Updated: Jun 30, 2021

"Re-Discovering Underexplored Communities in LA through Immersive Theatre"

The Award-Winning Chalk Repertory Theatre, with funding from L.A. City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, announces the launch of its new, immersive, audio play series “Chalk Lines,” directed by Jennifer Chang. Extending its signature site-specific style to the auditory realm, Chalk Repertory Theatre continues their 13-year tradition by combining classic theatrical storytelling with the unique sounds and ambiance of Los Angeles in all its beautiful, complex diversity.

Five short plays, listed below, using enveloping audio storytelling will bring to life unsung landmarks in Los Angeles City Council districts 8, 9, and 10 including the Metro Expo Line, Leimert Park, Historic West Adams, and Exposition Park.

“Mutual Life” written by Giovanni Adams is set in 1992 at the former Carl Bean AIDS Care Center in Historic West Adams. A young Latinx orphan living out his last days in hospice receives a mysterious sales visit for life insurance. Features Tonatiuh Elizarraraz (Arturo) and Xan Churchwell (Dee).

“March of Time – Time Warp” written by Luis Alfaro follows an unusually frank tour guide through 150 plus years of Los Angeles history and a morphing district from Union Station to Chinatown to the Coliseum and much more. Features Tonatiuh Elizarraraz (Tourist), Emily Kuroda (Tour Guide) and Giovanni Adams (Chorus).

“Leimert Park Drum Circle, Sunday Afternoon” written by Colette Robert beckons listeners with the beat of a drum down to Leimert Park Plaza on a journey of time, memory, and self-discovery. Features Veralyn Jones (Parent)

“From Your Homeworld to Mine,” written by Maldonado, begins at the Vermont Expo Metro Station, where passengers exiting the train encounter a man preaching the word of alien life. But perhaps he has much more to offer and share about history and humankind. Features Daniel (Rodney).

“8 for 16” written by Kimrie Lewis rides the Expo Metro line from Vermont to Crenshaw and back while a seasoned street vendor and a young college student navigate intricate negotiations. Features Emily Stout (Karly) and Veralyn Jones (Diamond).

Each of the short stories averages about 12 minutes. If you decide to do the tour, the best route is to start at Union Station then to Natural History Rose Garden, then USC/Vermont Metro Expo Line station to West Adams/Carl Bean House. However, you can listen in any order. “8 for 16” and “Your Homeworld to Mine” are right next to each other, so they should be experienced together. As an option, you can simply listen at home.

The “Chalk Lines” playwrights include Giovanni Adams (actor/playwright; “Love Is a Dirty Word”); Luis Alfaro (award-winning Chicano writer known for his work in poetry, theater, short stories, performance and journalism); Kimrie Lewis (actor/writer/director, currently stars in NBC’s new sitcom “Kenan”); Joseph Guy Maldonado (director/playwright/TV writer; award-winning “Hello Boys and Girls, or The Big Bird Play”); and Colette Robert (director/playwright). All writers grew up in Los Angeles and/or live in the neighborhoods where their stories take place.

The “Chalk Lines” actors are Xan Churchwell (actor/writer/creator/ podcast host); Gregg Daniel (accomplished actor/director; Mark Taper Forum’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone;” Pasadena Playhouse’s “Jitney”); Tonatiuh Elizarraraz (Echo Theater Company’s “Fixed;” IAMA Theatre Company’s “Species Native to California”); Veralyn Jones (award-winning actress; “Ferguson;” “Wedding Band: A Love - Hate Story in Black and White”); Emily Kuroda (Luis Alfaro’s “Straight as a Line;” “Red” at East West Players); and Emily Stout (founding member of The Associates Theater Ensemble).

The creative team includes Chalk Rep founding member and award-winning director Jennifer Chang (LADCC Award in Direction for “Vietgone,” “The Clitorish,” “Bernhardt/Hamlet”); dramaturg Deborah Stein (playwright/screenwriter/director; “The Wholehearted,” “Marginal Loss,” “Chimera”); sound designers Justin Asher (composer/audio producer/sound designer) and Colin Wambsgans (creates sounds for concerts, installations, podcasts, films, plays and apps).

To give you a little background, there were five graduates of the MFA Theatre program at the University of California, San Diego, who founded the company in the fall of 2008. The first season kicked off in January 2009 with Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” in the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery and garnered two Ovation Awards for its production of “Family Planning” by Julia Edwards. Celebrating its thirteenth season, Chalk Rep has become a leader in site-specific theatre in Los Angeles, partnering with sites as grand as the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and as rustic as the garage of a private home. The company was founded on principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion, anti-racist practices, and identity-conscious casting. Chalk Lines not only features under-explored communities, but BIPOC and LGBTQ perspectives, as well as a diverse creative team. Donations are encouraged.

Launching Saturday, June 19th and continuing through December 2021, “Chalk Lines” streaming instructions, including access to an Experience Guide, will be accessible through Total Running time: about 90 minutes if you travel by car and about 60 minutes if you listen at home.

Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report


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