Because of its tremendous amount of talent, character and beauty, Karen Sommers says South Pasadena is a perfect getaway from the grind of the city.
"It's a burgeoning artist community similar to Woodstock," she explains. "I see people taking day trips to see what's happening out here in the way of art and culture. I'd like to keep pushing the envelope to stay on the cutting edge."
Moving to South Pas in 2009, Sommers quickly found her niche lending her expertise in interactive arts to the (SPARC). And, of course, being the first South Pas resident to show work at .
Real people, real events and true emotion: These are three key elements prevelent in South of Delancey, now playing at the until June 26. Sommers used radio clips from a Jewish arbitration court in the mid-1900s, as well as court documents and character improvisation to develop the play—a process that began almost 10 years ago.
"I'm very in love with history; I love a good story, and if it’s true—all the better," said Sommers one Tuesday morning at . "That’s what this is for me—my historical novel."
As an Artist-in-Residence at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in New York in 2002, Sommers had the opportunity to participate in an end-of-year sharing show. Having recently heard an NPR segment about a House of Sages for retired rabbis in 1940s-New York, Sommers knew it was a story she wanted to pursue.
"It was just supposed to be a reading—very pared down and very simple," Sommers explained of the school's showing.
Hers, however, was very different.
"I had set pieces, I had costumes, I had entrances on and off, I had sound—I had the whole thing," she said of her first South of Delancey interpretation. "It was as much of a show as I could make it. ... I invited hundreds of people."
Sommers' hard work paid off. That first showing won the play lots of recognition, giving it the momentum it needed to get invited to a slew of festivals.
Yet after a long run of showings, Sommers says she was ready for a break. She took on a full-time job working at Mount Sinai Hospital, creating interactive shows for children as the director and producer of Kidzone TV. But before long, she and her husband yearned for California culture.
"We were finished with New York—done with the pollution and the noise and the stress," she said. "We really wanted this. We wanted mountains and beautiful weather—and clean and family and peace."
After their move, Sommers obtained funding for this rendition of the play from her current employer, The Art of Elysium. South of Delancey has been a hit with packed audiences and rave reviews since it opened earlier this month. She's even cast some of her original New York actors in the South Pas version.
Check back later today for a review of the play from one of Patch's local freelancers.