connect / 2014

Meet Me @the Metro: Theater/In/Transit (M3TNT)

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Company of Angels (CoA)

Meet Me @the Metro: Theatre/In/Transit (M3TNT) is an innovative theatrical extravaganza staged on and around the LA Metro Gold line.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Meet Me @the Metro: Theatre/In/Transit (M3TNT) is an innovative theatrical extravaganza staged on and around the LA Metro Gold line.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits all of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

M3TNT is a community based arts project performed on the Metro Gold line. It is the most innovative transit-oriented “Happening” in Los Angeles, featuring music, dance, theatre and puppets along the various stops between Union Station and Memorial Park. The production seeks to connect people to areas they would not otherwise go and to offer an alternative to sometimes inaccessible and expensive art venues. M3TNT with performances in communities along strategically selected station stops. Audiences will travel from station to station in mixed groups while experiencing a communal journey.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

The work to make M3TNT a reality has already begun and though there is still much to do we are on pace to a successful opening. To date we have identified and secured a core group of theatre artists to consult and collaborate on the project including Guillermo Aviles-Rodriguez the creator of Meet Me @Metro and an authority on transit-oriented performances in Los Angeles. In March of 2014 we reached out to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and started the negotiations with Diane Dominguez, Senior Real Estate Officer at Metro for the use of selected stops along the Gold line, including Union Station, China Town, Highland Park, Mission, Del Mar, and Memorial Park. We have also reached out to the Metro Art Docent Council to secure metro volunteers during our performances. We will also begin strategic outreach to government officials who oversee the areas in which the show happens, such as City Council members José Huizar (District 14) and Gilbert Cedillo (District 1). Another key component of making this project a reality is the community councils and other organizations found along the Gold line route, they will most accurately know the hidden treasures of their community. Ideally, we want to have these groups collaborate in the development of the logistics of the project. Currently our M3TNT production and artistic teams are assembling a strategic project plan to disseminate to potential community and artistic collaborators. It is after this that our artistic collaborators will be selected and oriented to Metro rules and regulations. It is a goal of Company of Angels that all support staff attend a Metro safety training and so we have met with Richard Morallo of Metro’s Community Relations Office to secure spots for all our volunteers and staff well in advance of the technical rehearsal in April of 2015. In addition, it is our goal to secure all permits for performing spaces by November of 2014. All artistic collaborators and performers will need to develop and rehearse their pieces while marketing and outreach plans are designed and executed. During April 2015, we will go into tech rehearsals and performances for key stakeholders and community members. We are working on including a live feed of the opening performance as well as producing short commercials to advertise M3TNT on Metro’s Bus TV channel. During May – July 2015, the surveys distributed during performances will be analyzed and results presented to Metro.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CONNECT today? In 2050?

Considering the unacceptably high level of segregation in Los Angeles, both geographic and economic, between poor communities (mostly of color) and more affluent communities (mostly White) a project like Meet Me @the Metro: Theatre/In/Transit strategically and sensitively provides a safe and creative context for these two groups to undertake an interactive and creative journey. M3TNT has a unique ability to bring people to view public transportation as a familiar and even pleasurable means of transportation as well as holding the potential to increase ridership among the artistic community and art attendance among the transit using community. A potential long-term effect of this brand of art is that people will decide to return to some of the communities they visited for the first time during our show, this may even provide some of the more economically depressed areas along our shows route to experience added income. One strategy we will employ to facilitate this is to have merchants along the Gold line offer discount coupons to any M3TNT audience members who return to the neighborhood to shop or eat within a month of the production. A transit-oriented project like this can also go a long way to providing a “hip factor” to public transportation amongst an art going public that like, Los Angeles as a whole, is car-centric. For some time now, the art and performance community in Los Angeles has been searching for a model to produce work that is sustainable, accessible and relevant; M3TNT offers a model that achieves these goals effectively. Too many low-income communities are left out of the equation when it comes to interactions with quality arts and performance. Often times, issues of geography prevent people from venturing too far outside their neighborhood. Knowing this, we have the responsibility to assure that the artist of the future will look for new and creative ways to collaborate with non-arts organizations to bring theater to the masses. M3TNT represents a new fusion between art and transit, transporting audience members through LA using a variety of site-specific artistic experiences along Metro. People need this project because it connects them to quality art where they live and work, rather than requiring them to come to it. This project is participatory, encourages audiences to be an active part of the performances, and directly influences the shape and the trajectory of their experiences.

Whom will your project benefit?

Through Meet Me @the Metro: Theatre/In/Transit, Company of Angels (CoA) seeks to reach people who would not otherwise be able to experience art and connect them with communities that offer art and culture. Our vision is to serve both artists and audiences from all of Los Angeles’ communities. Some key populations we want to reach out to include under-represented groups from downtown skid row with plans to incorporate a group of skid row performers who have taken some of our theatre workshops into the show. We will also set aside a portion of our tickets for audience members from key zip codes that have a high concentration of low income residents and we will have bilingual marketing to reach out to the Spanish speaking community along the Gold line. Historically the more affluent and theatre going community has been well represented in this brand of work so we are confident that our goal to reach out to the less fortunate will not preclude us from marketing to all of Los Angeles. In fact, the mixture and connecting of different races and economic levels is one of the main goals of M3TNT. The artists - writers, designers, actors, directors, stage managers whose work we will exhibit will all represent the communities that make up Los Angeles’ diverse landscape and so they too are beneficiaries of this project’s magic. It should be noted, that CoA has a long record of multicultural work. Out of the last 37 main stage productions since 2007, 35 have depicted under-represented communities, including the LGBTQ, Thai, Mexican immigrant, African-American, Japanese, and South Asian communities (The other two plays, which depicted the White community, were directed by artists of color). The participants in our projects typically range in age from late teen to adult and we will assure a high level of participation from this group in the staging of M3TNT. In the last 2 years, we have produced 10 original works exclusively by theater artists from under-represented groups in Los Angeles, including Latino, African-American, Asian, and LGBTQ and the make up of our M3TNT will be consistent with this trend.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

CoA plans to reach out to Los Angeles city and county government, DOT, civic organizations, small and large businesses, nonprofit agencies, artists and individuals. Thus far, CoA has confirmed collaborations with the following organizations all of which have collaborated in the production of site-specific work in the past.

*Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro): http://www.metro.net/ A fundamental component of Meet Me @the Metro is the smooth travel of our audience from station to station. Metro is the most important organization to help with this. They will provide permits, a group of key volunteers and help with the visibility of the project.

*Opera Del Espacio (ODE): http://www.operadelespacio.org/ Assuring artistic diversity is important to this production and ODE brings just that, they are a movement based company and have participated in many site-specific transit-oriented projects on Metro trains.

*Rick Burkhardt: http://princemyshkins.com/rickburkhardt2.html Rick is an Obie-award-winning playwright, performer, composer, and songwriter whose original chamber music, theater, and text pieces have been performed all over the world. Rick has unparalleled experience composing music for site-specific transit-oriented projects on Metro trains.

*Vox Box Arts Collective (VAC): http://www.voxboxarts.com/home.html VAC is a nonprofit multi-cultural interdisciplinary arts group dedicated to presenting live performance, film, and visual arts to children and adults of diverse incomes, cultures, and abilities. The Artistic Director has experience with Site-specific transit-oriented work.

*Teatro Arollo//Theater Stream (TA): http://www.teatroarroyo.com/ TA is the only theatre producing work in the Highland Park area and so they are vital to the artistic and geographic integrity of the project.

Three factors that are critical to the success of our proposed collaboration with new collaborators are experience with site-specific work, availability of artists and coordination of scheduling. When it comes to non-confirmed collaborators who have not experienced the power of transit-oriented site-specific work these three factors often come up.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Connect” metrics?

  • Attendance at cultural events
  • Number of public transit riders
  • Attendance at public/open street gatherings (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Meet Me @the Metro: Theater/In/Transit will positively impact the following LA2050 “Connect” Metrics:

  1. Attendance at cultural events 2. Attendance at public/open street gatherings. 3. Number of public transit riders

It is largely understood among the arts and performance community that people who have a positive experience in one type of venue or with one type of art will often seek to replicate that positive experience. However the mechanisms to enjoy art, is too often, littered with obstacles relating to five major factors: geography, practice, price, quality, and relevance. This is why our collaborations with groups who work in a site-specific manner is key to our meeting these metrics. Site-specific work naturally removes or lowers these obstacles. Each company will meet new audience members through M3TNT and the cultural events that these companies stage in public/open street gatherings will be familiar to all of these new audience members. When M3TNT audiences connect to the quality work and art of our participating companies, we know that these audience members will be more likely to both attend another cultural event as well as other public/open street gatherings. Another way in which projects like M3TNT have increased ridership is by providing all audience members with reusable tap cards that they can keep with them for future use. By developing commissioned work with theatre companies and artists from all over Los Angeles County M3TNT will support more multicultural theatrical work, broadening the breadth and quality of the field, as organizations and artists will take the best styles and practices from each other and employ them in their own neighborhoods.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

CoA will measure Meet Me @the Metro: Theatre/In/Transit success through a variety of vehicles, including numerical and quantitative as well as visual and qualitative measurements. We will conduct surveys with our audiences at each of our performances. The goal is to gauge our audience’s reaction to the various performances and the ranking of their experience on a scale of 1-10. We also collect data on the number of attendees from each of our target groups and other zip codes. In terms of audience development, M3TNT will track how many ticketed audience members attend each group experience and will assign personnel at each station to track how many incidental audience members engage in performances there. Bilingual (English/Spanish) online and hard copy surveys will be distributed to audience members to track their demographic information as well as their assessment of the performances, the experience overall, and their likelihood to attend a future festival and ride Metro in the future. COA will also work with local business to determine how many M3TNT organizations purchase their services or products as well as how many M3TNT audience members, artists and staff (who will be identified by a special Metro badge from the Metro Art Docent Council) will frequent their business during the development and performances of M3TNT. We hope to take these amounts and compare them to sales figures of non-M3TNT customers to determine the percent increase. We will survey each of our collaborators about their experience working with Company of Angels and with this type of site-specific work. During the year following M3TNT, CoA will track all its participating companies, musicians and artists to determine the number of artists that collaborate with each other after the conclusion of M3TNT and to estimate the amount of new productions that we contributed in generating. Finally we are working with Metro on ways to verify how many of our audience members who had never used the Metro as a means of transportation, came back to ride the Metro and used their tap card after our performance closed. If this information cannot be obtained, we will explore the feasibility of another method of quantifying the project’s impact on ridership.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

The lesson that has most informed M3TNT is that of isolationism’s corrosive effect in Los Angeles, isolation between residents, cultures and even arts organizations, which negatively affects economic growth, multicultural cohesion and artistic progress throughout the city. This challenge was identified in a discussions with CoA’s community, audience members, artists and arts practitioners throughout Los Angeles, revealing that while many of our youth today do not go beyond a 10 mile radius of their community, many greater LA residents do yearn to interact with people outside their community. Naturally, this segregation limits a community’s economic potential. Moreover, while LA remains one of the most diverse cities on the planet, many communities exist in isolation, and opportunities for interaction between ethnicities are limited. Unfortunately, many local theatres reflect this isolation, often producing art in silos in close proximity to one another with similar missions for similar audiences without collaborating, which stymies artistic creativity and advancement. M3TNT works to address these issues by developing an experience that encourages positive interactions between LA residents from different regions and diverse ethnicities through LA’s central Metro system, taking audiences out of their isolated communities and into other parts of the city. Furthermore, by collaborating with other local artists and theatre companies, musical bands, arts organizations and solo performers from throughout LA, M3TNT spurs artistic awareness and progress while exposing audiences to art they might otherwise not have the opportunity to experience. This project’s unique mobility, participatory style, collaborative nature and grandiose scale have a positive impact on the progression of Los Angeles as a city that cares for all its residents regardless of geography or economic status. A second lesson that has inspired this project is the need to use the arts to connect people with communities in need of economic investment and vibrancy. M3TNT more than a traditional performance increases commerce during a production’s development since actors and support staff are buying their food and drink in the areas they are rehearsing in. These performances often inspire new artistic collaborative projects that are conceived and developed when residents return to the communities they visit during CoA’s show.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Overview of Project Timeline:

JULY-OCTOBER 2014

  • Apply for more funding
  • Identify more prospective arts partners
  • Continue planning meetings with Metro
  • Distribute request for proposals to the Los Angeles arts community
  • Draft performance schedule

NOVEMBER 2014- FEBRUARY 2015

  • Publicly announce the official performance stations for Meet Me @the Metro
  • Notify selected lead artists and assign performance locations
  • Announce Meet Me @the Metro to the Los Angeles press
  • Project Meeting #1 with selected artists to discuss contracts, project schedules and perimeters of the project
  • Develop performance schedule
  • Begin advertising campaign

MARCH 2015

  • Project Meeting #2 will involve a report back from the lead artist on progress on project development
  • Finalize performance schedule
  • Mail out save the date to dignitaries
  • Submission of the first draft of the project script

APRIL 2015

  • Project Meeting #3 will require submission of the first draft of the project script or proposal
  • Start four-week rehearsal process for each of the projects
  • Run-through of all projects with out technology
  • Run-through on location at the identified sites

MAY 2015

  • Project Meeting #4 will require submission of the second draft of the project script and provide project teams with logical updates
  • Open show May 2nd run for two weeks (Sat. and Sun.) at 10:00am and 3:00pm
  • Report and review data from surveys

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

As with any large-scale project, Meet Me @the Metro: Theater/In/Transit has the challenge of getting the necessary funding to successfully connect communities from all over Los Angeles together. To date we have begun to reach out to organizations that have funded this type of work in the past such as the MAP Fund, The James Irvine Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts (to name a few). We have also begun to explore online fundraising and Crowd funding sites such as Razoo, Kickstarter, Indie go go and CauseVox. The strategy to deal with any financial shortcomings or with problems meeting the budget is to seek more in-kind contributions and only then to diminish the scale of the project to equal the available resources if necessary. Another challenge is the mechanism through which we will conduct outreach for the target communities and the evaluations of the project after it closes. The availability of quality staff with this type of transit-oriented site-specific experience is limited and a lot of training may be necessary to assure the smooth operation of the logistics involved with transporting an audience over multiple Metro stops. The strategy we will employ to deal with this is to make the fee for people who know this brand of performance competitive enough to secure the services of these highly qualified individuals.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach