The housing crisis takes center stage at REDCAT’s ‘The Most Beautiful Home…Maybe’

Karla Mosley stars in “The Most Beautiful Home…Maybe” at REDCAT.

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

“If we can get used to seeing people living in tents, and that’s the norm, then we can also get used to the idea that everyone can be housed,” actress Karla Mosley says of the premise of the new immersive performance it features. in titled “The Most Beautiful Home…Maybe,” playing REDCAT through Saturday.

Mosley may be best known for her role as Maya Avant Forrester on ‘The Bold and the Beautiful,’ but she’s dedicated much of her career to social justice and activism, which is why she got involved finds herself leading an experimental show that seeks to merge audiences. awareness of the housing crisis in the United States. She accomplishes this by playing a singing zebra in a dazzle of zebras.

Created by Mark Valdez and Ashley Sparks, and produced by Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis, “The Most Beautiful Home…Maybe,” uses time travel, statistics, political facts, audience participation, torch songs , interactive games and conversation to brainstorm actionable solutions to one of our nation’s most pressing and entrenched problems.

Once the show plays at REDCAT, it will travel to partner cities such as Syracuse, NY, St. Paul, Minn., and Mesa, Arizona. On May 21, before the final Los Angeles show, the band partnered with the American Japanese Cultural and Community Center and Sustainable Little Tokyo for a one-day housing symposium called “Housewarming: Little Tokyo & Skid Row”, which includes a tour of both areas.

Valdez and Sparks have spent their careers working at the intersection of arts, theatre, cultural organizations, community engagement and consulting – and are uniquely positioned to use performance practice to effect change. social, cultural and political.

Two people wearing printed shirts are smiling.

Ashley Sparks and Mark Valdez are co-directors.

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Valdez says the idea for the show came to him during a dark time in the Trump presidency when he felt the turbulent problems facing America were piling up at an alarming rate. As an artist, he felt a special urgency – as if he no longer had the luxury of having time to change hearts and minds. So he decided to create a show that would put his audience on the front lines of housing policy.

“I wanted to invite them into a process with the hope and belief that they will change — and if they can change, then maybe our policy and our practices can change,” Valdez said.

To build the storyline, Valdez and Sparks held a series of workshops in various locations across the country and invited advocates, activists, policymakers, developers, and government officials to attend. The goal was to discuss and formulate innovative solutions to issues of homelessness, affordable housing, housing shortage, NIMBYism and more.

Valdez recalls a personal turning point during a workshop when someone asked one of the group’s housing partners, “What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?” Their answer was not a lack of support or money but rather “a lack of imagination”.

“It was the time when it was like, ‘Great, we can do it,’ because we can do something on the imagination, we know how to do it,” Valdez says.

Discussions around housing policy, Valdez and Sparks say, are often limited by fear that a particular policy won’t make it through the political stage — and getting bills passed is the name of the game in politics. So thinking around chronic issues like housing gets smaller and smaller as the problem itself gets bigger and bigger.

“We need a gigantic imaginary leap so that we can begin to solve the problems we face,” says Valdez.

Actors perform on a stage with colored lights of purple, pink and yellow.

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Part of that leap is just expressing certain ideas in a public forum, he says. Words that might make a person laugh at a political meeting are welcome in “The Most Beautiful House…Maybe”.

“What does it look like when everyone is housed? is a question the show asks out loud. It then seeks to paint a picture of this possible reality in the hope that if people can start to envision such a thing, they can also move towards it.

Sparks says the idea of ​​universal housing didn’t always seem so radical. She was very moved as she read a speech given by Lyndon B. Johnson after signing the Housing and Urban Development Act in 1965.

“We must ensure that every family in America lives in a home of dignity and a neighborhood of pride, a community of opportunity and a city of promise and hope,” Johnson said.

If that had happened, Sparks wonders, how different would our communities be? If everyone had access to affordable housing, seniors wouldn’t be displaced and people living paycheck to paycheck wouldn’t care about keeping shelter above their heads?

Our country would actually be healthier and more prosperous if there was housing stability, she says.

“I can feel my body lighten when I imagine this world,” says Sparks, “where people don’t live in fear and stress of being homeless or losing their homes, or worried about where they will live when they’re old.

Sparks has spent years in the weeds of what she calls “highly technical housing policy” working with various advocacy organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Housing Trust. She is also, she says, “a theatrical moron”.

“The skills you have as a theater artist are actually superpowers for solving community problems and creating spaces for people to have difficult conversations,” says Sparks.

Concepts presented to the public by Mosley for consideration include excision of the idea of ​​owning a single-family home from the American Dream.

A man wears a brown coat and animal ears.

Bruce A. Young in “The Most Beautiful House…Perhaps”.

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Housing can be communal and multi-generational, Mosley says, as opposed to living in single-family units.

“We can reimagine what our neighborhoods can look like and what a neighborhood is,” she says.

Valdez is particularly driven by this idea, saying, “What would we create? What kind of high-density, co-op-oriented housing models could we create? How do we build the 68 million additional homes we need? How can family owners be encouraged to keep their homes affordable? »

America’s housing crisis is not new, but as a result of the pandemic, millions of middle-class Americans are now experiencing housing instability in the face of rapidly rising rents and house prices. A recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found that nearly 55% of Californians fear they won’t have enough money to pay their rent or mortgage.

It’s a problem for everyone, coast to coast, they say, and we need solutions for everyone.

Perhaps the best place to start, says the team behind ‘The Most Beautiful Home…Maybe’, is to ask yourself just one question: ‘What if everyone in this country had a home?’

‘The most beautiful house… Maybe’

Or: REDCAT at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Complex, 631 W. 2nd St., LA
When: 8:30 p.m. Thursday, 4 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Friday, 8:30 p.m. Saturday with a simultaneous virtual show.
Tickets: $13-$25
Operating time: 90 minutes, without intermission
Information: 237-2800
COVID protocol: Proof of full vaccination is required, including a booster if eligible. Masks are mandatory at all times. (Check website for changes.)

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