Last Update: Thursday, December 12, 2013
|College Students Perform At Pioneer Cemetery to Raise Funds to Replace Stolen Tombstones|
|Written by Diana Martinez|
|Thursday, 24 October 2013 05:44|
Ed. Note: Drama students from Los Angeles Mission College begin performances this week for "Voices of Pioneer Cemetery: ALMAS/Day of the Dead," playing from 8 p.m. to midnight on Oct. 25-26, and Nov. 1-2, at the San Fernando Pioneer Memorial Cemetery located at 14451 Bledsoe St. (at Foothill Boulevard), in Sylmar.
Almas" production photo
The Pioneer Memorial Cemetery in Sylmar is the second oldest graveyard in Los Angeles' suburban San Fernando Valley and the setting for the unique play, "Voices of Pioneer Cemetery: ALMAS/Day of the Dead," produced by the L.A. Mission College Drama Club in collaboration with the San Fernando Valley Historical Society (SFVHS).
The performers in the play are positioned at various spots throughout the historic cemetery, as visitors take a walking tour by flashlight with the actors' commentary about living and dying from some of the graveyard's long-departed resident citizens.
"The dead are an opinionated bunch," one character informs the audience.
Almas" production photo
There are 15 separate acts "that brings the living into the world of the dead" the event organizers described.
"ALMAS is truly a haunt alternative for those who prefer not to be chased by ghosts," said show creator/director Guillermo Avilés-Rodriguez, assistant professor at the Los Angeles Mission College's Theater/Cinema Department. "Our patrons will be haunted, however, by characters that are engaging and unsettling, and will perhaps move them to learn more about our rich local history and support the cemetery."
In "ALMAS," the dead have opinions about everything that mattered to them in life and their lessons are often outrageous commentary about the silliness of living. But in this play's brand of storytelling there is a twist, and it is the audience that haunts the dead instead of the other way around.
A scene from Ed Wood's cult movie "Plan 9 From Outer Space" that was filmed at the cemetery in 1956 will also be re-enacted.
Almas" production photo
During show performances, a portion of the cemetery known as the "Mexican section" will be honored with symbolic altars in the Day of the Dead tradition. "ALMAS" was first produced in 2010 as a fundraiser to bring to hire a technology team that located the unmarked graves at the cemetery. Over the years the gravesite has suffered from vandalism and neglect.
Proceeds from this year's production will be used toward the purchase of new tombstones that were stolen from the cemetery. There are currently only 13 of 214 gravesites that are marked.
Volunteers from SFVFS have maintained the cemetery and hope this production will bring more public awareness and support to restore the cemetery site. Members of the organization would like to open the site year round for educational tourism.
Organizers have also planned before the final performances of "ALMAS" on Nov. 2, a Dia de los Muertos /Day of the Dead free family festival at the cemetery from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., hosted by Tía Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore.
"We are also excited to collaborate with Tia Chucha's to offer a Day of the Dead cultural experience and provide members of our local community the opportunity this year to build traditional ofrendas (altars) on the cemetery grounds," says Jacky Walker, co-chair of the historical society's Pioneer Cemetery committee. "These altars will help elevate ALMAS from a Halloween feature to an event respectfully dedicated to and in remembrance of the departed.
"'ALMAS' is a unique outdoor theater experience that provides a Halloween horror haunt alternative with a historical twist."
The play is also in keeping of a mission held by Avilés- Rodriguez to have a bridge between the drama club students and the local community.
"Extending beyond the classroom, its purpose is to inspire students to participate in theatre for by and with the community; to gain real-life, career-focused and transformative experiences in acting, playwriting, set design, costuming, hair and makeup; and to help students understand how the stage empowers communities and individuals," Avilés-Rodriguez said.
"ALMAS" is an expression of that goal. "This show is more eerie, more 'ooooh' than 'boo,' yet thought provoking," Avilés- Rodriguez said.
For a behind the scenes sneak peek, visit https://vimeo.com/75938580. Tickets are available via www.voicesofpioneercemetery.com, and donations to help produce the show are also being requested in a video on the site.
Admission is $15 in advance or $20 at the performance. There are no age discounts, and no children under age seven will be admitted. Proceeds from the "ALMAS" performances will go toward tombstone restoration and further preservation of the cemetery and also to the drama club for future productions. Proceeds from the Day of the Dead event will help support Tia Chucha's cultural program, www.tiachucha.org.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 24 October 2013 05:51|