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VIDEO: See a Preview of Anna Deavere Smith's TWILIGHT: LOS ANGELES, 1992 at Signature Theatre's

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Smith’s gathering of voices surrounding the 1992 L.A. riots is a trenchant, complex portrait of a city’s racial anguish.

VIDEO: See a Preview of Anna Deavere Smith's TWILIGHT: LOS ANGELES, 1992 at Signature Theatre's

Signature Theatre has announced a 35-minute video preview of playwright, actor, and scholar Anna Deavere Smith's Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, directed by Taibi Magar, ahead of the Fall 2021 production on the Irene Diamond Stage. Postponed in 2020 as the pandemic shut down theaters across the city, Smith's gathering of voices surrounding the 1992 L.A. riots is a trenchant, complex portrait of a city's racial anguish-made all the more urgent across a year where millions rose up nationwide in a movement for racial justice that rippled around the world.

The parallels between these moments-nearly three decades apart-underscore the pressing need to confront the systems that enable history to repeat itself. As noted in the opening footage of the preview, "If the production had opened as originally scheduled, it would have been only two weeks before George Floyd's murder and the ensuing protests that are deeply resonant with the play." The preview-which features ASL interpretation, and comprises excerpts of the play alongside footage from the 1992 L.A. riots-is free to stream with RSVP.

Watch below!

In 1992, news of the police officers' acquittal in Rodney King's police brutality case reverberated throughout the streets of Los Angeles. Variously called a "riot," "a revolution," or "a social explosion," the events that followed the verdict drew worldwide attention. Anna Deavere Smith responded artistically by dissecting the anatomy of the unrest. She interviewed over 350 Los Angelinos in preparation for the performance. Declared a "rich, panoramic canvas of a national trauma" by The New York Times, Smith's transformative study of the 1992 L.A. riots reveals the fault lines that set the city ablaze. Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 is equal parts meticulously researched reportage and stirring cry for reform. With five actors (Esther Chae, Wesley T. Jones, Karl Kenzler, Tiffany Rachelle Stewart, and Carmen Zilles) performing from intimate, remote locations, the filmed excerpts in the preview emulate the interview process by which the play was crafted.

Throughout a year of halted creation, Smith sustained the play's urgent dialogue: organizing and leading a series of virtual SigSpace talks with individuals involved in the play's first production (including Twilight Bey, the activist after whom the work is named), highlighting the echoes of 1992 in 2020. Smith says, "This preview is another way to let the audience in on our process. It was also a great opportunity to stay in a process that had such a long delay due to COVID. The murder of George Floyd and the ensuing reckoning has effected the way we think about and try to improve race relations. Working on this put us in contact with one another at the height of an international cultural shift, and it was very useful thinking about it in the midst of a new consciousness."

Magar says, "Someone once said that 'America has a short term memory.' I hope this preview encourages people to understand the long history of police brutality, specifically against Black people, in this country. And as rich as the conversation is inside the digital piece, it is even bigger in the production. I hope it whets people's appetites for the full production, and I think it will also make our work in the fall even better, having spent so much time with the text over the past year."

The Fall 2021 production of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 will mark the continuation of Anna Deavere Smith's residency with Signature Theatre, which presented her 1992 play Fires in the Mirror in a production by Saheem Ali, starring Michael Benjamin Washington, in late 2019. In a New York Times Critic's Pick review, Ben Brantley wrote that the "crystalline revival" of "the enduring work of theatrical art...makes you catch your breath and shake your head in sorrow... The mirrors that Smith has built distill confusion into a wondrous translucence."


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