Sunday, November 07, 2010
Politics as Theater
I enjoyed myself last night at the Cornerstone Theater Company's production of "Making Paradise: The West Hollywood Musical" at Fiesta Hall in Plummer Park in West Hollywood.
It's hard to imagine the topic of incorporating a city would make for an interesting musical but they pull it off with this tale of how a portion of unincorporated Los Angeles County became the City of West Hollywood 25 years ago. (It's sort of a local version of the musical "1776.")
Yes, the audience actually tapped its toes to a song about a report by the Local Agency Formation Commission on local revenues the new city would generate.
Pushed by an alliance of rent-control supporters, gay-rights advocates and Jewish Russian immigrants, West Hollywood citihood certainly had a colorful start. And much of that start took place in Fiesta Hall, where the musical is playing. (It was fun watching the scene where they argued over how to set the chairs for a community meeting -- in a row facing a podium vs. in a circle -- in the room where the actual argument took place.)
I thought Ivy Bottini (a real-life 84-year old community activist) stole the show as a maniacal Chamber of Commerce member determined to stop citihood by creating "chaos."
My only quibble with the show is the final scene where activists gathered around a TV to watch the election returns to see if citihood passed. Sorry -- not realistic. There was a bigger news story on November 6, 1984 -- President Reagan's re-election. In 1984 the way a small campaign would have gotten real-time results was to send a representative to the City of Commerce where the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters was counting the votes. Then, using a payphone, the representative would call with the results. (But it's a musical so I guess some theatrical license is OK.)
And while many in the audience may have marvelled at the "long-ago" events in Fiesta Hall, the last time I was in Fiesta Hall before last night was even further in the past, in 1979 or 1980, when I took first place in the Native Sons of the Golden West Speech Contest.
But, as Jackie Steinman warned me Tuesday night when I was telling old campaign stories, I'm starting to sound like I'm "a thousand years old."