The Watts Residency is the first production in our Change Series and is being created in collaboration with multi-disciplinary artist Nancy Keystone and members of her theater company Critical Mass Performance Group. Together, we are exploring the dramatic changes taking place in the city of Watts, associated with the redevelopment of a community that generations of its members have called home for nearly 70 years.
The Jordan Downs Housing Project in Watts was built in the mid-1940s as the first Veterans Housing Project in the country and is currently home to 2,400 low-income Angelenos. The 700-unit complex is currently undergoing a massive redevelopment plan, demolishing the existing buildings to make way for a modern urban village with mixed income housing, restaurants, and retail. The development is expected to take up to 10 years to complete and will mean big changes for the community and for residents, some of whom have lived at Jordan Downs for generations.
How will these changes impact people, their families, and community? Who will benefit and who may be harmed? How does a community hold on to it’s history while facing an unknown future?
In collaboration with Jordan Downs residents, we are exploring these questions and aim to create a multifarious spectacle in and around the changing complex.
The final site-specific production coming this Fall 2018 will be a 10-day festival that may include an on-going mural painted by young artists, recorded oral histories, scenes and vignettes, a bicycle procession, videos by and about youth, a community music jam, a fashion show, sharing of favorite recipes, an historical archive of residents who occupied the building, and a place to imagine the future.
A multi-disciplinary artist, Nancy Keystone is founder and Artistic Director of Critical Mass Performance Group, an ensemble dedicated to the collaborative creation of new works and reinterpretations of classic plays. A visual artist as well as director, she conceives her productions as a whole, often designing sets for her productions. An interest in the poetics of space has led to productions in non-traditional environments--houses, a jazz bar, parks, building exteriors, industrial spaces. She works regularly as a freelance director, designer and writer at regional theatres throughout the country. features for the four lobby spaces. She was named one of the "Faces to Watch in 2005" by the L.A. Times and is the 2003 recipient of TCG's prestigious Alan Schneider Director Award, in addition to other grants and fellowships from: MacDowell Colony, National Endowment for the Arts, APAP/Doris Duke Ensembles Collaborations grant, TCG/Pew Charitable Trusts' National Theatre Artist Residency Grant (with PCS), Center for Cultural Innovation's Investing in Artists Grants, Durfee Foundation, Drama League of New York, California Community Foundation, Flintridge Foundation, among others. She is a member of the visiting faculty at UCLA, is a frequent guest lecturer, and an instructor in arts-in-education programs nationwide.
Ms. Keystone earned an MFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon in1988, and a BA in Theatre Arts from UCLA in1985. Also in 1985 she spent a semester in Europe studying drawing and art history. Her most recent project with Critical Mass Performance Group is Apollo, for which she won a Garland Award for "Best Play" for Parts 1&2, and a Drammy Award for scenic design. The production is part of the U.S. exhibition at the 2011 Prague Quadrennial, and it is featured prominently in the recently published book, The Creative Spirit, by Stephanie Arnold. Previously with Critical Mass, Ms. Keystone wrote, choreographed, directed, set designed and produced The Akhmatova Project (one of the Ten Best Productions, 2000, Los Angeles Times; and four L.A. Weekly nominations--Best Production, Direction, Ensemble, and Choreography, winner of Choreography award). A movement-based performance piece, it is inspired by the life and writing of Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova. Other Critical Mass Productions: Suzan-Lori Parks' 365 Days/365 Plays (week 47), Aphra Behn's The Rover, Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, Brecht's Baal, Shakespeare's Measure for Measure (one of 10 Best productions, 1991, Los Angeles Reader), all performed at non-traditional sites. She has directed and designed productions at Portland Center Stage (Artistic Associate 2003-2005), Mark Taper Forum, Actor's Express, The Theatre @ Boston Court, Georgia Shakespeare Festival, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, and was Resident Director for The Continuum in Los Angeles.