GREENWAY ARTS ALLIANCE’S ANNIVERSARY BRUNCH/THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET
I was happy to participate in Greenway Arts Alliance’s twentieth anniversary celebration… for two recent week-ends in a row! GAA is the company that runs the Greenway Court Theatre at Fairfax High, and the Greenway Institute for the Arts (which is an arts education program at the school,) and the famous Melrose Trading Post week-end flea market in the school’s parking lot. That’s a lot of good work that they do!
To commemorate the occasion, they threw a lovely outdoor brunch and stage presentation on the grounds of the school last Sunday. Even though (many moons ago) I taught at several schools in Los Angeles, (including a nursery school in Beverly Hills and an elementary school in Palms, and I even proctored SATS at Uni High,) and I pass Fairfax High all the time, I had never set foot on its premises until that day! And in all my years of being a theatre critic, I never even knew they have a lovely theatre there, on the Fairfax side. (I guess I’m strictly a Melrose Avenue girl.)
The week-end before that fete, my friend Thomas and I paid a visit to the Greenway Court Theatre for the opening night of the play The House on Mango Street, which is based on the 1984 coming-of-age novel by Mexican-American writer Sandra Cisneros. While interesting, the play isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I’m glad I saw it for several reasons. One is that, as a cultured person, I’m grateful to have been made aware of this famous story. I have a feeling this book is taught in many high school classrooms. The way it’s told in the play reminded me a bit of Like Water For Chocolate, which, surprisingly to me, was published four years after The House on Mango Street! Latina stories are very important today, especially in Los Angeles, so Angelenos should try to see this production while they have the chance. (All the details on the show are at the bottom of this article.)
Secondly, I appreciated discovering this darling, very comfortable theatre that I can’t wait to visit again. The entrance, which looks like a tropical front porch, made me feel like I was in the Bette Davis film, The Letter, especially on a late summer’s eve. That was a lovely atmosphere.
And the easy, plentiful, adjacent free parking tied a bow on the entire experience.
So, after that evening, I was especially happy to be included in GAA’s daytime anniversary presentation the next week-end. To make it even more fun, I brought along a Fairfax High alumnus, so that she could give me secret insights into the venue as the morning went along. I felt like the BWOC (Big Woman On Campus) walking onto the premises with both my pal who went there and an escort from the event!
First up was a delicious catered brunch which was served in the school’s rotunda area, with tables outside, as well. It was a beautiful Fall day, so we opted to dine outdoors. There were four different food stations—hot breakfast items on one, breads and fruits on another, beverages on a third, and the most popular one—custom-made omelets. There was nothing else anyone could have desired, and it was all delicious. I even ate some grits!!!
To entertain us right off the bat, that part of the day had a “dress for the past” theme for the “cast” of workers. There were flapper and barber shop singers performing high above the buffet, serenading the crowd the whole time. Really fun. My favorite was a little woman dressed as a lunchroom lady, complete with hair net, who was stationed at the entrance to the food line. She inspected each guest’s fingernails (with a flashlight, no less,) to make sure they were clean enough for eating purposes, as I guess they did way back in the day. I was thrilled, because my nails are always camera-ready, (as I’m sure you all know by now,) but the poor guy in front of me had lots of dirt under his, and the little woman pointed it out!!! I really loved that!
One very smart thing they did was to have ’40s-attired peeps go around with big signs on tall sticks to let us all know how much time we had left for that portion of the day, so that we could wrap-up our convos and chowing-down.
Speaking of conversations, I had a very interesting one with actor Barry Primus, from Cagney and Lacey. I’ve never seen that show, so I didn’t even realize that he’s famous, but as I passed him, I recognized his face from…seeing him in a play when I was a little girl!!! He played Lucky in Waiting For Godot at the Trinity Square Rep branch at the University of Rhode Island, where I used to spend summers with my educator parents. His excellent portrayal scared me so much that I’ve never been able to see that play even as a grown-up! I told him all about it, and he was amazed at how much I remembered from that time. We had a lovely conversation, which brought us all the way to the stage presentation portion of this event.
When we all moved over to that area, I enjoyed that there were so many different kinds of audience seats to watch the proceedings from. I never saw anything like it, especially al fresco. There were some regular chairs, but there were also specialty chairs, couches (complete with area rugs,) and dining room tables, even though no one could eat on them that day. There were even some statues and other appointments to make it look homier.
The Master of Ceremonies was Seamus Dever from Castle, who interacted with students, and even sang with them! He has a lovely voice. Who knew??? (Castle is one of the few cutesy TV shows who never made their cast “put on a show.” That means that no one else in that cast had singing or dancing talent.)
There was much more to the festivities, which actually went on all day, but I was triple-booked (what else is new?,) so I couldn’t stay for all of them. I wanted to spend some time perusing the silent auction items, but I was happy to learn that it was very successful even without my bids.
If you, too, want to support Greenway Arts Alliance, I suggest that you go see the play or shop at the Melrose Trading Post. Better yet, make a day of it and do them both!
The House on Mango Street running through October 28, 2017
Greenway Court Theatre, 544 North Fairfax Avenue 323-673-0544 www.greenwaycourttheatre.org