AVPA Artists Create Portraits For Center Theatre Group
By Srishti Goswamy
AVPA visual artists participated in an 11-week artist-in-residency with Center Theater Group focused on a contemporary play, Emma and the Suzies, written by Anthony Aguilar, which explores coming of age in the historic Los Angeles community of Boyle Heights. The play follows the adventures of Emma and two girls named Suzie as they struggle between convention and rebellion. Under the guidance of CTG set designer, Janne Larsen, the AVPA students made their own artwork about social conventions. This workshop marked Larsen’s sixth year working with AVPA. She brought her varied experience in set design, installation art, and painting to the program.
In order to experience the environment that forms such an integral part of the play, the students took a field trip to Boyle Heights during the first meeting of the workshop. The community was historically home to many different cultures, including much of Los Angeles’ Japanese American and Jewish populations, but today the neighborhood is predominantly Mexican American. The AVPA artists toured the Center Theater Group’s prop warehouse and saw set pieces from past and upcoming plays, including last year’s Chavez Ravine. Then, they visited several of Boyle Heights’ murals. “I loved the murals in Boyle Heights because they said so much about Los Angeles’ cultural history,” explained senior Srishti Goswamy.
The playwright Anthony Aguilar visited Culver City High School soon after. He answered questions from the students and talked about his inspirations for the work, which drew from his own childhood in Boyle Heights as part of a Latino family. “Speaking with the playwright was a great experience,” said senior Zoe LeCheminant. “It allowed us to get an insight into the process of writing a play.” Aguilar also played improvisation games with the students, which strengthened the connection to the CTG program creates between visual arts and theater.
In the subsequent weeks, the AVPA artists worked with Janne Larsen to paint portraits of “safe” and “dangerous” women because Emma and the Suzies can be perceived as either. Each student painted two posters, one portraying a conventional, “safe” woman and the other an unconventional, “dangerous” one. Senior Laksmita Candrisari commented, “The project allowed us to explore what is meant by safe and dangerous without restricting us to a set of beliefs. Rather, it encouraged us to find the meaning for ourselves.” AVPA artists plan to create a wall of the portraits on the wall of the CTG costume and prop warehouse in Boyle Heights, prompting viewers to challenge their perception of women and culture, major themes in Emma and the Suzies.
Playwright Anthony Aguilar visits CCHS to discuss his play, Emma & The Suzies
Anthony Aguilar Teaches AVPA Artists Improv Techniques
Ariana working to create her portraits of “Safe” and “Dangerous”
Janne Larsen and Allison
Cheyenne, Michelle, and Lismary working on their portraits for CTG