News and Events – 12 June 2009

June 12, 2009 § 2 Comments

Rachel Garcia as the Great Blue Heron in Touch the Water, costume design by Soojin Lee - Photo copywright John Luker

Rachel Garcia as the Great Blue Heron in Cornerstone Theater's L.A. River Play Touch the Water, costume design by Soojin Lee - Photo copywright John Luker


Shishir Kurup and Joe Linton in Touch the Water - Photo copywright John Luker

Shishir Kurup and Joe Linton in Touch the Water - Photo copywright John Luker (enter your humorous caption in comments!)

> “Touch ze water, man”  Cornerstone Theater‘s Touch the Water is showing NOW, and continues Wednesday through Sunday through June 21st ( this weekend and next weekend only!)  Come and see your creek freak blogger Joe Linton’s dramatic debut and what the LA Weekly describes as including a “stunning moment of spine-tingling magic that is the raison d’etre of site-specific theater.”   Most performances include pre-play river walks, lead by local creek freaks including Jenny Price, Robert Garcia, Miguel Luna and others.  Make reservations online at the Cornerstone website.  Here are a few suggestions for theater-goers:

(For my handful of loyal readers:  I promise to blog more once this production is over!)

> The Pacific American Volunteer Association and Anahuak Youth Sports Organization host a Los Angeles River clean-up this Saturday June 13th via Green L.A. Girl.

> Author and Urban Ranger Jenny Price, after leading her pre-play walk this Friday, will lead Friends of the Los Angeles River’s tour of the Lower Los Angeles River on Sunday June 14th.


> Per the Long Beach Press-Telegram, L.A. County Supervisors have voted to proceed with a Compton Creek Master Plan.

The Glendale News Press reports that Disney is being sued for alledgedly polluting the river-adjacent Polliwog Parcel.  Polliwog is a remnant piece of Griffith Park stranded north of the Los Angeles River when the river was straightened.  The site has been discussed as part of a future Los Angeles River greenway (though today most of the site is separated from the river by the 134 Freeway.)

Relief from the Concrete lets us know that the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the San Gabriel River Discovery Center has been released and is now open for comments.

According to Science Dude, the San Gabriel River’s sea turtles appear to have established a year-round colony.

LAist talks bull on Army Corps restoration of Bull Creek in the Sepulveda Basin, and talks trash about L.A.’s storm drain covers.

W Roscoe (with my friend Federico) explores the Ballona Creek underground.

Some new video coverage of local waterways:

Some creeky new blogs:

Lastly, probably off topic, but about water at least:  see this WaterWired post on a water-computer used to predict changes in the economy.  It’s both elegant and Rube-Goldberg – follow the link on the blog to watch the video.

Touch the Water previews start tomorrow!

May 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

Touch the Water performances start tomorrow!  Performances are Wednesday through Sunday at 8pm.  Previews are Thursday May 28th through Wednesday June 3rd, then full-fledged theater premieres and continues through Sunday June 21st.  It’s outdoors along the river, and gets kinda cold after dark – so BRING WARM LAYERS, even BLANKETSMake your reservation at the Cornerstone Theater website.

Photo from the Downtown News (by Gary Leonard)

Director Juliette Carillo and actor and creek freak Joe Linton on set along the L.A. RIver (from the Downtown News, photo by Gary Leonard)

There’s a good preview article in the L.A. Downtown News.

Don’t forget to come early and take a walk along the river with an expert.  The site, called the bowtie parcel at Taylor Yard, is one of the nicest and most natural stretches on the entire river.  During rehearsals we’ve been enjoying checking out an osprey that’s been circling and fishing.  There’s also plenty of herons, ducks, cormorants, and tall willow trees.  See the free pre-play walks schedule here.

Pre-Play Walks at Touch the Water

May 23, 2009 § 3 Comments

Moving a tree on the riverside set of Touch the Water

Moving a tree on the riverside set of Touch the Water (photo by Terry Young)

As you probably remember from creek freak’s blog entry a week or so ago, Cornerstone Theater Company is presenting the L.A. River play Touch the Water. Previews start next week! I am in the play and excited to get lots of people there (make your reservation on-line here,) so I’ve been working with the Cornerstone folks to set up a series of short pre-play walks that will be lead by some of my favorite local creek freaks.

The play starts at 8pm at the Taylor Yard bowtie parcel (2800 Casitas Avenue, L.A. 90039 – like many spots on the river it’s a bit hard to find – use bike/bus directions here or driving directions here.) The following performances will include pre-play walks. The walks will start promptly at 7pm, so they can conclude by 7:45pm, in time for participants to take their seats in time for the play. Folks who participate in the pre-play walk will get preferred seating for the play.

In addition to the walks below – most Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays – there will “talkbacks” (post-play discussions with with cast and others) on Thursday nights after the play.

The pre-play walks are free, and the play itself is pay-what-you-can (suggested $20.) Make reservations online at the Cornerstone Theater Company website. You don’t need to register for the pre-play walks – just show up!

Friday June 5th
Melanie Winter, Founder and Director, The River Project

Sunday June 7th
Jessica Hall, Senior Associate, Restoration Design Group
(and, of course, L.A. Creek Freak blogger!)
on “L.A. River Tales”

Wednesday June 10th
Sabrina Drill, University of California Cooperative Extension
on “Fish in the L.A. River” (see also our earlier post on fish)

Thursday June 11th
Nidia Garcia, Holly Harper, and Aaron Thomas, of North East Trees

Friday June 12th
Jenny Price, writer, Los Angeles Urban Ranger, and LA River tour guide
on “Los Angeles, the River City: Past, Present, Future”
>Don’t miss Jenny’s upcoming lower L.A. River tour on Sunday June 14th!

Sunday June 14th
Shelly Backlar, Executive Director, Friends of the Los Angeles River

Wednesday June 17th
Miguel Luna, Urban Semillas

Thursday, June 18th
Robert Garcia, Executive Director, Counsel and Founder of The City Project

Friday June 19th
Dorothy Kieu Le and Aurisha Smolarski of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
“Bike Night at Touch the Water”
>Don’t miss LACBC’s upcoming Los Angeles River Ride on Sunday June 7th!

Rehearsing Touch the Water – A River Play

May 12, 2009 § 1 Comment

Touch the Water postcard

Touch the Water postcard

I bet you didn’t know that some of your favorite creek freaks are learning to be actors?!?  Well… I am in the thick of rehearsals for the new play Touch the Water which is being created by the Cornerstone Theater Company.

Cornerstone is a very community-based theater company.  They commission a playwright, in this case Julie Hébert, to go into a community and interview folks.  The playwright then comes up with an original play that incorporates the stories, issues, settings and characters.   At that point, Cornerstone encourages community folks to audition for parts in the play… then the next phase of work begins. From the Cornerstone mission: “By making theater with and for people of many ages, cultures and levels of theatrical experience, Cornerstone builds bridges between and within diverse communities in our home city of Los Angeles and nationwide.”  This is very true – the cast comes in all colors, ages, shapes and sizes, kinda like the communities along the river.  Touch the Water is directed by Juliette Carrillo, who also directed Lydia which is on-stage right now through May 17th at the Mark Taper Forum (and phenomenal – go see it!)

I play a character named Joe Swift, who is  a US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) biologist who really wants to make a difference – “to work with nature instead of trying to control it.” I think of Joe Swift as a kind of mix of Carol Armstrong, Heather Wylie, Carvell Bass, and Sabrina Drill (these are real people who work for, respectively, the LA City Bureau of Engineering, formerly USACE, USACE, and University of California Extension.)  The character in the play who I think most resembles me is an activist named Jade Kenton-Denton Green – an architect who leads tours of the river.  River activists Lewis MacAdams, Terry Young and Lane Barden also have roles, as well as folks I’ve met from the Glendale Narrows community of Frogtown, including Cecilia Dominguez, Ricky Dominguez, and Joel Jimenez.  Rounding out the cast are many excellent actors and musicians who’ve worked with Cornerstone on past productions.

It has already been a great experience for me.  As I learn some of the craft of acting, I feel like I am stretching muscles that I didn’t know I had.  Just when I think I have a scene memorized, I find myself thinking about which way I am moving or facing, and then forgetting my line.  I promise I will get all those lines and movements down before we open, though!

I am not going to give away much of the storyline here, so you’ll still have to come and see the play.  It does involve plenty of magic, rain, pocket parks that filter stormwater, gentrification, Tongva, an architect, a biologist, a performance artist, fishermen, a community garden, a sledgehammer, a speargun, a sketchbook, a shopping cart, carp, a crow, a raccoon, a heron, an egret, ducks, and even a sea turtle.

Touch the Water performances are Wednesday through Sunday from May 28th through June 21st 2009.  All performances are at 8pm.  All tickets are pay-what-you-can, with a suggested donation/price of $20.  You can reserve tickets right now – online at Cornerstone’s website.

Performances take place along the northeast side of the Los Angeles River across from Frogtown (adjacent to Atwater Village and Glassell Park – by the 2 Freeway.)  The site is called the “bowtie parcel” of Taylor Yard (which was purchased by California State Parks as part of the Rio de Los Angeles State Park – but is not contiguous with the existing Rio de Los Angeles park!)  The address there is 2800 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90039.  Like many spots along the L.A. River it’s kinda tough to get to, but it’s quite nice once you’re there – it’s in the Glendale Narrows, where the bottom of the river isn’t paved, so there’s lots of birds and trees and flowing waters.

To get to the bowtie parcel, you can either walk or bike along the northeast bank (the Atwater side) of the river from Fletcher Drive.  It’s walkable from the Metro 603 bus on Fletcher or the 96 on Riverside Drive.    If you drive, you enter from Casitas Avenue, which runs along the railroad tracks in Atwater.  From the map, it would seem like you could take Fletcher to Casitas, but they don’t actually intersect, because Fletcher goes below Casitas when it’s going under the railroad tracks.  Follow the driving directions on the Cornerstone website and you can’t miss it.  There is plenty of parking at the site.

We’re also working on putting together a series of walks and talks before and after many performances.  L.A. Creek Freak will let you know when the schedule is finalized for these – keep your RSS tuned here!

Why creeks – a personal view

September 21, 2008 § 3 Comments


What shapes our understanding of the world, of LA?

What shapes our understanding of the world, of LA?

My last post, Rivers Lost to City, noted that we’ve been losing creeks for a long time. In fact, so many have been literally buried in the last century that most angelenos don’t even realize we ever had streams, much less that some still exist, and as a native I can also say that it’s hard to understand why it even matters.  In a city that has so many problems, why put time into this one?  

The answer for that will be highly individual, I can give you some institutional reasons, but will start with a personal one, which may take on the tone of a tent revival confessional.  

I grew up in Hawthorne, and as a kid never experienced nature there.  Hawthorne had some good people, but my impression of it was marked by a sterile landscape of front lawns and hostile grey streets, bullies & gangs, cruising perverts.  A mask of boredom concealed fear and anger.  My inheritance from this place was a desire for structure, safety, walkability, and beauty.  These things were interpreted within the limits of my experience, as they are for all of us, and I sought a career in architecture to manifest them.

The best days of my childhood were completely disconnected from this, spent in a creek in Kentucky, that ran next to my grandfather’s house.  We splashed, swam, caught tree frogs, dodged copperheads and imaginary cottonmouths, clambered along steep ledges, and tried to fish.  We’d collect fossils and old bricks that we found in the creek, screeching and oohing and ahhing over all the discoveries and stimulations of the place.  But that was Kentucky, there was nowhere here I knew of to transfer those vivid moments.

So fast-forwarding a bit, learning of a creek in Hancock Park touched something deep, and amidst the upwelling of questions about what LA was before we paved it, and how we came to make the decision to bury so many of our waterways, was a real sadness tinged with outrage, to think that there could have been places here for youthful exploration and escape, for me and so many other children. And indeed earlier generations have those memories and connections. This is vital, for it is through this play and discovery that we understand and interpret the world around us, relate to other creatures as beings with their own integrity, purpose, and right to exist, and perhaps most importantly, come to know what it means to feel alive. 

I won’t deceive you, I still have enough Hawthorne-infused cynicism to believe that creeks in our urban neighborhoods, like every other unsupervised place in the city, could become a dumping ground for illicit activity, and that they pose unique hazards of their own.  And so we obviously need to be vigilant and wise about how we introduce our children to waterways, and how we conduct ourselves.  

But creeks connect high and low, they unite neighbors, like the folks in Brookside Estates, who love and tend to their little creek in Hancock Park. They sustain life to a wide array of plants and animals, including us. Creeks are as old as the land itself, their vitality and character are essential to the sense of place so many long for in Los Angeles.

Do you love a creek?  Would you like to protect and restore our creeks?  Tell us!  


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