Strong Messages from 'The Streets' Theater Troupe of Homeless Actors Performs Searing Drama Based on Real-Life Experiences

By M. S. Mason, | The Christian Science Monitor, March 3, 1992 | Go to article overview

Strong Messages from 'The Streets' Theater Troupe of Homeless Actors Performs Searing Drama Based on Real-Life Experiences


M. S. Mason,, The Christian Science Monitor


AMONG the many adjectives that leap to mind after a Los Angeles Poverty Department performance, "entertaining" is not one of them. Shocking, biting, aggressive, depressing, frightening, searing, gritty, revealing, or provoking - yes - but entertaining? No.

The LAPD (the anagram is deliberate) is John Malpede's baby. A veteran of performance art, Mr. Malpede turned his socio-political attention to the problems of the homeless in the early 1980s. He took up residence on skid row in Los Angeles and invited homeless actors, artists, and others to participate in a form of theater meant to give voice to a voiceless minority.

That voice is not sentimentalized. It is not made pathetic. Rage, wit, sorrow, and suffering characterize it. It is very hard to listen to because the violence enacted is so intense, making most movie treatments of street violence seem tame by comparison.

LAPD is based in L.A. but not bolted down there. Company members travel to major cities at the invitation of arts or community organizations and move into the local skid row, throwing open rehearsals to anyone who is interested. They have only three rules: No drugs, no liquor, no violence.

The actors work with core LAPD members to tell their own stories, filtered only slightly by the dramatic process. Thus a dramatized version of a true story, the killing of a grocery clerk by a homeless man, will be invested with the actor's real emotions when he was fired from a menial job. It's really a kind of psychodrama, where the most terrible moments in a person's life (or in the life of the local streets) are acted out.

There's more to it, of course - a method in all the madness. There is a good deal of humor (mostly very dark), and there are recurring themes that ultimately help local communities see where the cause of so much agony lies.

LAPD has had a positive effect in many places where it has performed. In some cities, productions have continued independently after the troupe leaves. In Boulder, LAPD's presence has raised the issue of opening a day-center in the town, and committed people are pressing for it. Some of the performers who are mentally disabled have been assisted in getting government aid and their lives have drastically improved. Such changes have been an example to others, who have then sought help, say Malpede and others in the group.

In a recent performance here, sponsored by the Colorado Dance Festival, LAPD took a large rehearsal room at the Boulder Dance Collective, placed the audience in the center of the room, chairs pointed every which way, and built small stages in each corner, though the performers used the entire space. Here we saw men and women lying about as if in shelters or out on the streets. Gradually, their stories unfolded, some of them overlapping or recurring through out the performance.

No mention of homelessness was made, nor was daily activity, daily mundane reality, part of the picture. In one story, a woman (played by a male actor) plots with her older son to torment the younger son.

In another scene, a young couple drives around endlessly looking for amusement. Drugs and liquor are the main antidote for their boredom. It is this man who will kill the clerk. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Strong Messages from 'The Streets' Theater Troupe of Homeless Actors Performs Searing Drama Based on Real-Life Experiences
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.