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Next Act Theatre Examines Race Relations 24 Years After the Los Angeles Riots

Next Act Theatre

In 1992, four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of using excessive force against African American taxi driver Rodney King. The officers had been filmed beating an unarmed King at the end of a high speed chase and the city erupted at the news of their exoneration.

The subsequent riots caused 53 deaths and 2,383 injuries, damage to over 3,000 businesses and caused nearly $1 billion dollars in financial losses. Other, smaller riots across the U.S. and in Canada were also sparked by the verdicts. It was a time when race relations and police treatment of minorities were at the forefront of the cultural consciousness.

At the time, Anna Deavere Smith wrote and appeared in the one woman show Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. She wanted to explore what the verdicts and the subsequent riots meant to a wide cross section of people.

"It's a deeply respectful and specific type of mimicry in order to tell the story and to present this human being in each individuals case," explains actor Andrew Perez.

Next Act Theatre is re-staging this work a quarter century later, when it sometimes feels as if not much has changed.

"It’s... heavy. And it’s dire," says Perez. "This is a very real situation and it’s not even that it hasn’t changed in 24 years, it’s not even that it hasn’t changed in 50. It is so embedded in the fabric of our collective consciousness that half the time you don't even notice that you don't notice...I hope that people do see the parallels."

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992  opens this week at Next Act Theatre and runs through February 21, 2016.

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Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.