Company of Angels presents the world premiere of RISE, a poignant journey throughout the decades of an African American woman born and bred in Boyle Heights. As the neighborhood evolves, this love story unfolds the ties that bind her to it, unraveling the tragic mystery behind her unrelenting resolve to never leave. Written by Company of Angels (CoA)-commissioned playwright Kimba Henderson (2023 Fox Entertainment TV drama fellow and currently a resident in The Black List/Women in Film Screenwriting Program) and directed by Lui Sanchez (Company of Angels Associate Artistic Director; playwright and director for CoA, USC School of Theatre, Urban Possibilities, The Deltoid Performance Group, and Take Fountain Theatre). Performances take place October 7 through November 5 at the Company of Angels Theater in Boyle Heights.
Company of Angels, 1350 San Pablo Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033
The Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights was once known as the Ellis Island of the west coast, a multicultural haven, providing a home to European and Asian immigrants, Latinos, and African Americans. This rich convergence of cultures resulted in a unique tapestry of American life in the much beloved and historic community of Boyle Heights.
Through a previous project with Impro Theatre which looked at Boyle Heights through the lens of Japanese American, Jewish and Latine communities, there began a growing interest in wanting to explore the black community through an original play. Many don’t know that African Americans had a strong presence in Boyle Heights back in the day.
CoA commissioned playwright Kimba Henderson to create this play. In addition to her being an amazing writer, CoA had worked with her before, including taking part in CoA’s Playwrights group. In addition, Henderson has a postgraduate history background and research for RISE was right up her alley. CoA connected with members of the African American community who either grew up in Boyle Heights or had family from the area and they held Story Circles at the theater. Henderson was able to talk with this group, hear their stories and love for Boyle Heights. After months of research and development, CoA held their first invite-only reading in February 2023 via zoom. From there, Henderson worked on re-writes based on the feedback received. Another reading, this time in-person, was held this past July which was open to the public and included a talk-back with Henderson after the reading.
“In a time when America is wildly divided particularly along racial lines, I was stunned to discover Boyle Heights was a historically multiracial neighborhood which boasted a diversity that was organic and proved to be an advantage to many residents as they went out into the world. Despite differences in race, faith, and culture, neighbors inspired by the American dream supported, celebrated, and learned from each other,” exclaimed Henderson. “Personally, I was compelled to tell a story about a uniquely African American family shaped by this extraordinary neighborhood that presents a sense of place unlike anywhere else. Rise is a love letter to Boyle Heights, and I hope it gives the audience a glimpse of what is possible in the communities’ we humans call home.”