Rising From the Ashes
A look at the first rehearsals of ‘Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992’ at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee
Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 spent the first week of rehearsal at the historic headquarters of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC). The city of Watts is both directly tied to the L.A. Uprising and a hub of community action, protest, and advocacy since the 1960s.
WLCAC was founded in 1965 by Ted Watkins, who fled from a lynch mob in Mississippi to Los Angeles as a teenager in the 1920s. Early activities included neighborhood cleanups, youth jobs, senior meals, agriculture, housing, and multiple local businesses. In 1971, WLCAC purchased a seven-acre tire retreading factory, converting it from a polluting industrial site into a community and shopping center, with headquarters for programs that served thousands and housed hundreds of Watts residents. It featured a home improvement store and the area’s only toy store. In 1992, during the L.A. Uprising, Ted’s life work was burned to the ground. The organization rebuilt the physical structure of the center, adding spaces for community gatherings, theatre, and an immersive educational tour about the history of racism and the Civil Rights movement with replicas of a slave hold and Reconstruction Era dwelling.
“I look around and it’s entrenched with beautiful, Black history,” Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 actor Lovensky Jean-Baptiste said of the WLCAC and the murals of influential Black artists, activists, politicians and more on the walls. “I get to walk into a space where Black people are celebrated and that’s beautiful to me...it just makes me proud and happy about coming to work.”
“The fact that [WLCAC] welcomes us is a form of radical hospitality I wish more places had. That’s what I feel in the spirit of this place.” Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 Playwright Anna Deavere Smith said of the organization.
In rebuilding the organization’s physical home, WLCAC restructured its focus and mission as well. The WLCAC now focuses on recreation, healing, and housing programs–both on the property and off. It is still run by the founder’s family–President/CEO Timothy Watkins—who was interviewed for the original production of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 thirty years ago. His daughter, Tina Watkins Quaye, leads the grant writing department, but is also a historian of the space and organization. Quaye led the cast and creatives on a tour through the WLCAC on the first day of rehearsal.
“There’s something sacred about being connected as human beings and knowing that...in some way we are all affected [by the L.A. Uprising] because the remnants of disinvestment in Watts are still here. So, bringing [Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992] to a building that was resurrected after that ruin and having a platform to tell the stories of people who were directly impacted is so special,” Quaye said.
Rehearsals took place in the Phoenix Hall theatre. The symbolism was not lost on Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 Actor Hugo Armstrong. “This is a place that literally burned to the ground and the Phoenix rises and continues to rise,” he said. He felt it was a testament to the resilience of humans and the ways they can become better over time.