For just 24 cents a ticket, a priceless look at the immigrant experience

Written by

Actress/poet Lilliana Vasquez plays a neighbor in Ladybird. She grew up eyeing the 24th Street Theater and hoping for a way to work in it.

The 24th Street theater isn’t just open for performances at night: It’s open after school, for the neighborhood kids, who learn dramatic skills, too.  And since last April, it’s been a refuge for several dozen adult community members as they worked to write and stage a show that opens tonight. The group, comprised mostly of immigrants, had the help of professional theater people to guide them.

The resulting work, “Ladybird,” is about the struggle of an immigrant woman to adapt to life in her new country, and her reluctance to step out and make a new life here.  It was borne out of the personal stories of the people who created the work.

I went to a rehearsal the other night and spoke to a number of cast members.  “This has been a miracle for this community,” said Liliana Vasquez, who was born in El Salvador and brought to the States as a five-year old.  She’s been eyeing the theater for ages, and hoping for a way to be a part of it somehow.  The plot of the show mirrors what she’s experienced in her family and her community, Vasquez said.

The cast of Ladybird during a tech rehearsal
The cast of Ladybird during a tech rehearsal (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

The experience has given her not only a chance to exercise her creative muscle in a group, but perhaps even more important, Vasquez says, is the power of community-building it’s unleashed:  “It’s interesting what happens when people get together and start talking.  It gives hope that things in humanity are not out of reach and unfixable.”