JELLY BEANS. Check. WHALES. Yeah, sorta. GUNS. Pass, please. UNDERWEAR. Let’s move on from this.

- entry by LEA MADDA

On the evening of June 5, Melrose Avenue was buzzing.  Pineapples- every way you turned.  After a weekend-long fest of rehearsals, trumpet calls, and pounds of donated Whole Foods pastries tumbling out of a garbage bag, the UCLA community and beyond enjoyed an evening of art and libations at LAUNCH: LOS ANGELES, the premiere event and fundraiser for the newly-formed Southland Company.  The evening’s performance included excerpts from four new plays written by a diverse group of Los Angeles-based playwrights and performed by members of the UCLA MFA Theater Department and friends. 

Christina Elisa Hjelm’s Fucked.  Like Rabbits hysterically explored the turmoil of two LA transplants coming to terms with less-than-glamorous employment options post-graduate school.  This was followed by an excerpt from southland company co-founder Israel Lopez’ The Easterlies, a piece questioning the legitimacy of cross-cultural relationships, guest-directed by J Ed Araiza of the SITI Company.  An excerpt from The Gita and the Gun came next about a young Indian-American girl navigating suburbia, written by other co-founder Roshni Shukla and directed by recent UCLA-graduate Darcie Crager in association with Theatre Raw.  The evening concluded with a lively scene from Josh Montreal Segal’s new comedy Cheap Laughs, which will be going up fully produced at UCLA in 2017, exposing the hilariously dark corners of a deep friendship after an incidental tragedy.

In celebration of the southland company successfully reaching the Kickstarter goal, the cast and attending company celebrated post-show with a reception filled to the brim with wine, beer from local microbrew South Central Brewers, and Nonna’s empanadas as well as musical stylings by DJ Selective Mute.  The excitable energy was palpable; attendees remarked on the success of the event and their enthusiasm for the future of the southland company. 

And what about the pineapples?  Why a tropical fruit as the southland co emblem?  Pineapples symbolize “welcome,” an invitation to friendship, hospitality, and most importantly, new beginnings.  The southland company wishes to engage an audience across the diverse neighborhood of Los Angeles, creating a new center of home for the art of storytelling.  The southland company welcomes all artists across all forms of artistic, cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic barriers, recognizing the common bond of storytelling. 

So, this went well.  So let’s keep working, shall we?