L.A. Founding Families

Los Angeles’ rich cultural history comes to life in this new production, performed at the Pico House in El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument

Los Angeles’ rich cultural history comes to life in L.A. Founding Families, developed by School of Theater students, faculty and collaborators-in-residence at CalArts. This site-specific performance takes place at the Pico House in El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument.

In the new production, 28 performers portray historical figures of the city’s Mexican, European, African, Chinese and Native American origins with the audience moving from room to room. Each of the “exhibits” comes to life to re-tell one of five stories: “The Pobladores,” which focuses on the original 22 families to migrate to Los Angeles from Mexico; “Gold Mountain,” a chilling examination of the Chinese Massacre of 1871; “The Tongva,” the Native peoples of the Los Angeles region; a meet and greet at “The Tavern” with the characters responsible for the building of Los Angeles, including Pio Pico, California’s last Mexican governor. The production ends with “We Look Back,” an examination of how these diverse cultural origins affect modern-day Los Angeles and its current residents.

L.A. Founding Families was conceived and originally staged by Duende CalArts Director and Acting Program faculty Marissa Chibas and directed by Nataki Garrett, CNP associate artist and associate dean of the School of Theater. It also stars CalArts faculty member Roger Guenveur Smith and Tonantzin Carmelo, a performer whose maternal lineage descends from the original peoples of Southern California, as well as a number of CalArts actors.

The production is a project of Duende CalArts—an ongoing initiative to explore Pan-American work and issues—and CalArts Center for New Performance, the School of Theater’s professional producing arm.