Originally conceived as a one-woman play, Twilight was the product of nearly 300 interviews, which Smith turned into a series of monologues dealing with the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
Those days of looting and arson, commonly known as the Rodney King Riots, were triggered by the acquittal of the police officers responsible for beating African-American taxi driver Rodney King, a needlessly violent altercation that many believed proved the LAPD’s inherent racism. Tensions in the city had built up for decades, not just between black communities and the police, but also among various racial and ethnic groups, especially in South Central L.A. The acquittals were the final straw for many L.A. residents.
“It’s 25 years old, and yet it could not be more relevant, unfortunately,” says director Sarah Shaver, Theatre Department Chair at Pikes Peak Community College. She and Dance Department Chair Stephanie Kobes-Newcomb have taken this piece beyond its one-woman roots, creating a production with more than 20 actors and nine dancers, a group as diverse as the voices presented by the monologues.
The play, which can feel on its own like a series of “talking heads” according to Shaver, lends itself to accompaniment by movement, and Kobes-Newcomb has a history of doing impressive work with social justice topics, including choreographing dances about global warming and the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in North Dakota. The two department heads thought Twilight might be the perfect opportunity to incorporate dance into drama, along with screenings of archival footage and interpretations by American Sign Language students. The marriage of these different mediums should prove powerful.
Shaver says that with ongoing clashes between the police and the Black Lives Matter movement, it feels appropriate to continue to address this subject. “This is really uncomfortable stuff,” she says, recognizing that those with privilege sometimes choose to ignore such topics simply because they can, “... but it’s our job as artists to hold it up and say ‘look at this.’”