Sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye, but, most of the time, I just procrastinate.
It’s been a long time coming and not a complete secret that East LA Rep, originally known as East Los Angeles Repertory Theatre Company, is over, done, kaput.
In 2002 four people met and were soon off to become friends, enemies, friends again, and to be forever interlaced into each other’s history, like it or not. Juan E. Carrillo, F***y Garcia, Karina Gonzalez and Jesus A. Reyes met – not in East Los Angeles – in the Valley. A series of circumstances led them together. I’m 100% certain the Gods had something to do with the union. A theatre company was born with high hopes of turning East Los Angeles into the Latino theatre mecca. When we attempted to open our inaugural season, but were disregarded by a local theatre company, we decided to produce MACBETH as part of the annual Free Shakespeare at East LA Parks. (It’s so obvious here that I was super inspired by Joe Papp on the east coast and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on the west coast. OSF had inaugurated their new theatre with the Scottish play – if they could do it, we could too!). We were an audacious bunch.
Between 2002 and 2007 East LA Rep embarked on cultivating a following and encouraging the company members to experiment and discover what they were good at. We were a theatre company trying to emulate the American theatre, and that was a mistake we learned by 2007. By the beginning of 2008 I had received a TCG Future Leaders Fellowship and was on my way towards everything I always wanted – to be a player. My first nephew, Abraham, was born on October 26, 2007 and my mom died on April 22, 2008. Change was in the air and I refused to let go. By 2009 East LA Rep had gone through many changes, including core members and mission statements. All this should have been a clarion call to stop, but it’s very difficult for any founder to let go, and this stems from the simple fact that a founder never feels he/she has completed his/her purpose, when in fact, he/she should assess if the organization has completed its purpose.
I led the group to change focus, which is good, but when any organization is tied to a person or a core group, it becomes difficult to make a drastic change from a theatre company to a creative center (something too new at the time). We tried to keep it together and dove in to being a hub for artists and companies in need of a space, advice, or just a place to chismear. It was magical as we continued site-specific work, partnerships with groups I idolized (Campo Santo) and artists I looked up to (Luis Alfaro, Adelina Anthony, Chris Weitz etc.) A creative center it had become, but, it was a little too late.
Without asking for permission, life continued to shape me, my aunt died in 2011 and my second nephew was born a month later. I returned to Spain for a five week stay and on my return, it was evident that I would be leaving my home of over 25 years in Boyle Heights. I moved in with my sister to the opposite end of Boyle Heights, but it was a big change. Surprisingly, East LA Rep continued to do work (The Independents Vol. 1) and continued to support the field (Latino Theatre Alliance/LA) and worked on a new strategic plan (BIG thanks to Patricia Garza and Anna Rose O’Halloran) but I knew I was losing steam and when I was hired by Center Theatre Group as Program Manager of Community Partnerships to design and implement their community programs, all East LA Rep business had to stop.
There are hundreds of people I should thank, but I know I would miss someone and that would be sad. There are many people that provided physical space, emotional, monetary and spiritual support that without them East LA Rep would not have been able to thrive, and I hope, make a little bit of a difference on the theatre landscape. There are many unfinished projects, broken promises, unrealized dreams, but absolutely no regrets.
I lied, I will thank Juan E. Carrillo, F***y Garcia, and Karina Gonzalez for following the lead of a stranger way back in 2002 (or was it 2003) at the moment that I was losing my religion, they believed in me and a dream. We did good.
This page will be up for a week or so and you are welcome to download all the pics you want. I’m off to a new super adventure and I have a feeling I'll bump into some of you again.
Your friend and instigator,
Jesus A. Reyes