Play takes audience back in time

Monica Velez

“Twilight: Los Angeles” was more than watching a remarkable cast of seven Sacramento State students transform into contrasting gender and racial characters from themselves; it was an eye-awakening experience from the moment the ticket stubs were ripped until the audience filtered out of the Playwright Theater in Shasta Hall at Sac State.

Anna Deavere Smith originally wrote “Twilight: Los Angeles” in 1992 as a one-woman play, converting the interviews she conducted with people affected by the Rodney King riots, to the stage.

Rather than having one person represent all the people interviewed, Director Melinda Wilson Ramey used Steven Amaral, Urias Davis, Brody Jack Jennings, Alex Martinez, Jordan Powell, Devin Valdez and Taylor Vaughan to reenact real people’s experiences of the trial and riots.

With each performer playing a minimum of five roles the audience was forced to pay attention to the monologues, rather than focusing on skin color and gender.

The play, being a nontraditional theater piece, challenged not only the actors, but also the audience, to dig deeper into each person’s life and to let go of the notion of race and gender and just view people; people who had life-altering experiences because of police brutality and racial differences.

Before even seeing the stage, the audience was brought into the atmosphere of the Rodney King trials. Newspapers of the trial and riot coverage surrounded the walls, as well as pictures of the actual people who are being represented in the play. There was everyone from police officers, Korean shop owners down to the lawyers, witnesses and jurors who experienced the trial and events first hand.

Footage of the Rodney King beating and news coverage of the riots were played throughout the whole show, emphasizing the disasters and how many injuries and deaths occurred because of the desperate pursuit for justice.

As the riot scenes progressed and characters started to tell their stories, the audience underwent an extent of their experiences through the technological effects of the performance. All of a sudden the air started to become foggy, as if it were the aftermath of the burning buildings in South Los Angeles. The lights started to dim, with the red and orange flamed lighting used to represent being in the burning riots.

The compilation of monologues were precise and definitive to each character, the actors honing their multiple accents as if they have had it all their lives, having each character switch be more entertaining than the one before. Males and females playing each other and races being swapped around was symbolic to the racial problems that was ripping society apart during the trials, and how these problems are still relevant in today’s society.

“Especially what’s happening right now in America, these stories happened 20 years ago and still happen,” Davis said. “These stories need to be told.”

Sac State student and audience member Tawni Saiz said that it was interesting that none of the characters directly interacted to each other but it was nicely presented. As the actor would switch characters back to back they would take off and put on different clothing and accessories, as well as switch scenery.

“I liked the way they built the set, because every person has their set. […] The set fits the character,” said Sac State student Ines Rosales.

The stage was set up with a variety of different types of desks with furniture that pertained specifically to each different setting that matched the character. Depending on who the actor was representing they would sit on the couch, an office desk or armchair. The Los Angeles cityscape was draped in the background with projected captions explaining who the character was and videos of the riots.

Saiz and Rosales both enjoyed the play and thought the acting was exceptionally amusing and accurate.

“I really liked the guy [Urias Davis] he was really good, I liked the way they ended it too,” Saiz said.

After ample applause, the cast was warmly congratulated by friends and family all with positive comments radiating through their smiles.

“I guess I’m more so elated that everyone enjoyed it because we put so much into it, and just trying to bring these people to life and look at the story as an individual,” Vaughan said.

Vaughan was overwhelmed with gratitude and received gracious hugs and compliments from her premiering performance.

“I still can’t breath,” Davis said. “I feel so brave, I feel blessed that Dr. Wilson gave me the opportunity to be in the show […] and the audience loved it. I feel fantastic.”

“Twilight: Los Angeles” will continue to play at Sac State in the Playwright Theater, located in Shasta Hall, through March 22 Wednesday-Sunday.