Immersive Theater Experience Shines Spotlight on Watts

West Century Boulevard dead-ends at LAX. But East Century Boulevard, in Watts, is a wide-open space currently undergoing massive development. The Jordan Downs Housing Project, home to Watts families for generations, is being transformed into a modern urban village.

Drive along East Century, west of Alameda, and you can see numerous buildings (a total of 1,400 units) going in to replace outdated housing built during World War II. The 2,600 current Jordan Downs residents will be moved into the new structures when they are completed, and to mark the shift, Cornerstone Theater Company is presenting a unique and immersive onsite production, A Jordan Downs Illumination.

Local residents of all ages participate in A Jordan Downs Illumination

Ticket holders/participants interact with Jordan Downs residents, other Watts residents, and Cornerstone company members playing roles related to the Housing Authority, Jordan Downs itself, and others. They see reenactments of 60+ years of residents’ memories. They help determine housing assignments for fictional residents with an array of situations and needs.

It’s all done to call attention to what’s going on in an area that receives little notice other than Watts Towers, the now-closed LocoL restaurant and the 1965 riots. And there is much, much more to Watts, as this show illustrates.

Cornerstone has history itself, of integrating unique events in underserved communities, including Skid Row. Having lost its physical theater last year, Cornerstone is now itself homeless, a vagabond troupe joining forces with locals to tell important stories that would otherwise be lost. A Jordan Downs Illumination, two years in development, is the first play in Cornerstone’s Change Series.

The show includes a simulation of relocation planning for the Jordan Downs housing project

According to a Cornerstone press release, “In these volatile times, Cornerstone Theater Company is undertaking an exploration of how societal change across the country and the globe is impacting our local communities and, by extension, the very nature of the work we do as a company.”

A Jordan Downs Illumination, written and directed by multi-disciplinary artist Nancy Keystone, will be performed Friday, May 24 at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm and 8pm, and Sunday at 3pm and 7:30pm at Jordan Downs Recreation Center, 9900 Grape Street, LA 90002. Tickets are available here.

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About Laura Foti Cohen

Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and marketing consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Neo Ensemble Theatre in Hollywood.

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