Los Angeles City College students will get the unique opportunity to mount a full theater production in a professional environment with the support of a professional design team. Odyssey Theatre Ensemble in association with Los Angeles City College Theatre Academy presents Our Lady of 121st Street by Stephen Adly Guirgis for eight performances, Oct. 24 through Nov. 1, as part of the Odyssey’s student outreach program THE ODDS.
In Stephen Adly Guirgis’ funny and touching Our Lady of 121st Street, a group of childhood friends reunites in Harlem for the wake of their beloved yet feared teacher, Sister Rose, the “lady of 121st Street.” Gathered together for the first time in years, passions are ignited, tensions are heightened and old wounds are opened. With trademark intensity, Guirgis brings a unique, urban style to this moving and hilarious story about reexamining the past.
Directed by Leslie Ferreira, the production stars Los Angeles City College Theatre Academy students Ali Ahmad, Jessica Atkinson, Alisa Baggio, Christelle Baguidy, Tamisha Estrada, Martel Huggins, Daniel Palma, Alvaro Ramirez, Tyler Smith and Michael Woodruff, along with two Academy alumni: John Christopher and guest Equity artist William Knight.
Our Lady of 121st Street was originally directed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman at New York’s LAByrinth Theatre Company, where Guirgis is a longtime member. The production moved to the off-Broadway Union Station Theatre, where it received Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel Award nominations for Outstanding Play. The New York Observer called it the “best new play in a decade”, while The New York Times found it ”a bruising comic knockout.”
Known for creating colorful characters who use frequent and extensive profanity to express themselves, Guirgis’ other plays include The Mother****er with the Hat, Jesus Hopped the A Train, In Arabia We’d All Be Kings, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and, most recently, Between Riverside and Crazy. Last week, it was announced that Guirgis will receive the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, the largest monetary prize for theater in the U.S. ($200,000), at the 7th annual Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards on Nov. 17.
The Odyssey’s student outreach program, THE ODDS, began in 2002 with a student production of Jose Rivera’s Cloud Tectonics followed in 2003 by Christopher Durang’s The Actor’s Nightmare with students from University High School in West Los Angeles. From 2005-2007, after receiving a grant from the Marcled Foundation, the Odyssey conducted writing/acting workshops at Camino Nuevo High School in downtown Los Angeles. Student plays developed in these workshops were then performed at the Odyssey during a series of two-week residencies.
In 2008, THE ODDS and the Theatre Academy and Theater Arts Department, Los Angeles City College formed a partnership with the goal of enabling young theater artists who display exemplary drive and creativity the opportunity to work in a professional theater environment. The script for the first production, A Woman’s Eye, was created by Fulya Diner, Chie Saito and Kate Whitney, all students at LACC, using the myths of Eve, Lilith and Amatearsu to explore the changing roles of women in modern society. This was followed in 2009 with Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, directed by Al Rossi and featuring a cast of 20, all students, faculty and alumni from Theatre Academy at LACC. Bloody Red Heart marked the third collaboration between the Odyssey and LACC Theatre Academy and was made possible in part by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Marcled Foundation. Untitled Warhol Project opened in November 2012 and went on to receive six Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival honors, including “Distinguished Production of a Devised Work.”
Established in 1929, the theater training program at Los Angeles City College is one of the oldest and most respected training programs in the country. It has trained countless numbers of students who have gone on to successful careers in the entertainment industry in acting, directing, casting, production, writing, production coordination, design in lighting, sound, costuming and sets, technical production, technical direction, owners and directors of various theater-oriented businesses and organizations, and numerous technical and costuming specializations. Graduates from LACC have won numerous awards, including recipients of the Academy Award, Emmy Award, Tony Award and Bravo Award. Its teaching excellence has been heralded by the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival, the California Community College Academic Senate, the California Educational Theatre Association, the Los Angeles Community College District, the County of Los Angeles and the City of Los Angeles. Further, the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle gave LACC a Special Award for “maintaining consistently high standard of programming and production.”
Scenic design for Our Lady of 121st Street is by Tesshi Nakagawa; lighting design is by James Moody; original music is composed by Wes Myers; and stage management is by Joey Vreeland. Nakagawa and Myers are alumni of the LACC Theatre Academy.
Performances of Our Lady of 121st Street take place on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Oct. 24 through Nov. 1 with two additional matinees, on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 12 p.m. and Thursday, Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. There will be one preview performance on Thursday, Oct. 23 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20; students with valid ID are $10. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to www.OdysseyTheatre.com. Recommended for mature audiences.