Earlier this month, I closed my first professional show in Los Angeles with Downtown Repertory Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Though one of The Bard’s most treasured comedies, this production was far from typical. In an attempt to bring the story to a modern audience we decided to contemporize it, setting it in an Orange County luxury resort called The Messina.
Also referred to as El Pueblo De Los Angeles, Olvera Street is considered the birthplace of the City of Angels. It is a place that seems simultaneously frozen in time and humming with everyday modern Los Angeles activity. I did not know what to make of it. Business men and women bustle to and from Union Station (located across the street), and tourists snap pictures of themselves on the back of a painted stone donkey, while local families salsa dance in the square. On this tiny street, all walks of life mix and weave among each other, creating a bizarre collage of Los Angeles life.
This happened early on a Monday morning, around 7am. While most people at this hour are happily dreaming in their warm beds, I was crossing the street in LA’s downtown financial district, at 7th and Flower to be exact. See, I live in North Hollywood and I work at USC, a major distance for someone who does not drive and has to be on campus at 7:30 in the morning. However, as horrible as this situation sounds, this daily commute is actually thoroughly enjoyable. I take a 25 minute train ride down to the 7th St. Center Metro stop, usually wait about 5-10 minutes for the bus, and then ride the bus to campus for another 15 minutes (and then vice versa back home). With the bustle of a busy work day, this daily journey is usually the most relaxing part of my day. Instead of impatiently trudging through traffic, cursing the overpopulated freeways and lack of free parking around campus, I get to sit back and enjoy my favorite pastimes, reading novels or listening to music/intriguing podcasts, while scoping out my fellow commuters. Let me also note that I am an LA native who remembers a time when Los Angeles did not have a subway and when downtown was a dead zone infiltrated by the homeless. These days, when I ride the metro, I think about what a privilege it is to zoom to my destination, to bear witness to the growth of businesses in the downtown area, and to see more and more office workers, students, artists (and yes, even residents) reclaim the city.