The New Compassionate Downtown

Directed by John Malpede and Henriëtte Brouwers

Visual Art by Robby Herbst

May 14, 15, 16, 20021

At MOCA Geffen Plaza & Live stream

About the Project

Downtown LA has long been marketed as a night-life destination. Los Angeles Poverty Department’s “The New Compassionate Downtown,” dares to imagine alternative marketing that draws people to live in Downtown who value the wisdom and compassionate practice exemplified by Skid Row workers and residents:

“Here is a place you can live guilt- and resentment free. No longer will the subterranean guilt of ignoring privilege haunt you and through psychological displacement manifest itself as anger.”

Work on the performance began pre-pandemic and explores themes that have gained resonance in the past year. The performance is set at a meeting of The New Compassionate Downtown, an heterogenous group of people living and working in all parts of Downtown, who embrace building a community of compassion. The performance cuts from the meeting to scenes that concretely explore compassion, in action, as life unfolds daily. The performance will be staged in a socially distant manner by a cast of eleven Los Angeles Poverty Department performers and a socially distanced audience on the MOCA Geffen Plaza and it will be live streamed. “The New Compassionate Downtown,” was devised in LA Poverty Department workshops live (pre-pandemic) and then on Zoom. All the cast members have contributed to the script. The performance is directed by John Malpede & Henriëtte Brouwers. Los Angeles Poverty Department is a performance group of people who live and work in Skid Row.

Building the Project

“Compassion and Self -Deception” is a multidisciplinary art project interrogating compassion and conflicted responses to homelessness in the city of LA, right now.

Working with LAPD in the context of this multi-disciplinary project visual artist Robby Herbst (Llano Del Rio Collective) developed two simultaneous “guides” to Los Angeles together known as a “Socio-Emp-athic Guide To LA”. One guide explores the cartography of cruelty in Los Angeles, and the other explores the cartography of compassion. These guides will be distributed throughout the city via Llano Del Rio’s distribution network.

The “guides” map sites of cruelty and sites of compassion in Los Angeles as experienced by its un-housed population in particular. The guides site instances of the city’s built architecture and features, its policy, and social practices of the city’s inhabitants. The guides also illustrate (formally) the processes of compassion, and the process of empathy, and function as a behavioral guide spanning the spectrum of human emotions. The guides’ content was developed through a collaborative research project engaging Skid Row residents and support services. Research was conducted in both the physical city, as well as the emotional city.

The performance is presented by MOCA as part of ART RISE, which is a project of We Rise LA.

The Cast

Stephanie Bell, Iron Donato, Tom Grode, Leyla Martinez, Lee Maupin, Matt Miyahara, Lorraine Morland, Clarence Powell, Dianne Prozeller, Anthony “ToneTone” Taylor, Maya Waterman.

Project Funders

This project was funded in part by the Mike Kelly Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts – Theater, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Goethe Institut, the LA County Department of Arts and Culture and MOCA-Geffen.

California Humanities funded our community conversations.