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Bringing ‘Used to Was (Maybe Did)’ from page to stage

One of the incredible joys of my job as Center Theatre Group’s artistic development program manager is to see a project grow and change from the beginning. I remember the day when Associate Artistic Director Diane Rodriguez passed along the script of Used To Was (Maybe Did) by playwright Brian Dykstra to me. I could feel the excitement and energy fly off the page. The piece is electric – told entirely in spoken word and weaving together poetry and music with the rhythms of hip hop.

DJ Kheedim Oh getting the crowd ready for the show. Photo by Craig Schwartz. Used to Was (Maybe Did) is an intergenerational story about the next heir apparent finding a place at the top, and those at the top moving over. The confident Double D knows he’s going to win a spoken word poetry competition, until the young Lil’ Lat’n Gurl comes up from behind and surprises all.

We had two weeks to bring Used to Was (Maybe Did) from page to stage for its very first public reading. The entire developmental process was a complete blur, from the huge push for auditions by our incomparable Casting Associate Meg Fister to get spoken word poets and actors to the first day of rehearsal, to hearing the script read aloud by our amazing group of performers (Carlton Byrd, Enid Cortes and David McKnight), to post-rehearsal conversations with the playwright, director, DJ and heroic Stage Manager Lora K. Powell, to sound checking with our Production Manager Chris Reardon and Audio Engineer Matthew Colleran. But there was a lot of laughter (and maybe some tears, too).

The support from the theatre is EXACTLY what any playwright would be lottery-winning-level lucky enough to get…Thanks to our CTG hosts for the space to work and the stunning ideas about what was and now is down on the page. —Brian Dykstra

It all culminated in a public reading at Inner-City Arts, an oasis of creativity and learning in downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row, that offers arts education programming to local students and families. Inner-City Arts was the perfect partner to host the reading and drew an incredibly large and engaged crowd.

Playwright and Actor Brian Dykstra. Photo by Craig Schwartz. Next up for Used to Was (Maybe Did) is a Center Theatre Group-hosted writing workshop this summer where Brian and the team will continue to dig into the script and further develop this vital and important story.

I still cannot believe the growth of the piece and the changes that manifested themselves from that first day to now — and of course I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Used To Was (Maybe Did) is a CTG completion commission, which is given to collective creators who have developed the piece elsewhere but desire further support to complete the work. Completion commissions are made possible by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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