A home sweet home for Culture Clash in MacArthur Park?


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Will the sweet green icing of success be pouring down on Culture Clash, the iconic L.A. Latino comic-theater troupe, if it moves to a new home beside MacArthur Park?

Under a proposal spearheaded by the Community Redevelopment Agency of the city of Los Angeles (CRA/LA), the Westlake Theatre at the edge of MacArthur Park, which was built in 1926 and currently is used as a swap meet, would be converted into a multi-use entertainment space for live theater, film screenings, musical performances and community and social events. The project also would include the creation of 49 units of affordable housing and a 300-space parking garage.


According to CRA officials, the Music Box@Fonda, which runs the Music Box theater in Hollywood, would operate and program the revamped Westlake Theatre, and Culture Clash, the popular and respected Latino performance ensemble that is marking its 25th anniversary this year, would become the facility’s resident theater company. In addition to performing at the theater for a minimum of 30 days per year, Culture Clash would provide youth-oriented programming and instruction in writing and acting, said Leslie Lambert, the CRA’s administrator for its Hollywood and Central region.

‘They’re very popular, they attract a big audience,’ said Lambert in explaining selection of Culture Clash, which is known for its mix of antic comedy and biting social commentary. ‘Ethnically, they fit perfectly with that community. They’re very much in touch with that community. [And] they’ll bring in audiences from elsewhere.’

Richard Montoya of Culture Clash, who with colleagues Herbert Siguenza and Ric Salinas have operated as a gypsy ensemble since the group moved from the Bay Area to Los Angeles in the early 1990s, praised the Westlake Theatre as ‘a grand old faded lady’ and said the trio was excited about finally acquiring a ‘bricks and mortar’ home of its own.

‘Thank God there’s angels in bureaucracy — there are — that have said, ‘You guys deserve a home,’’ Montoya said. ‘We’re, like, two Salvadorans, one Chicano, there’s a need in the area.’

However, he emphasized, MacArthur Park is ‘not an area devoid of culture. No, it’s a very, actually, sophisticated place.’

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-- Reed Johnson

Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times