lakeStreet

Lake Street just off Beverly near downtown

The Lake Street community center is a lovely oasis carved into a tired looking neighborhood just west of Downtown, one of those great surprises hidden in LA.

Inside the center on the basketball court was a rehearsal by the cast of the latest production by Theater by the Blind, one of the few theatrical troupes in the country where all the actors have low-vision.

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Director Greg Shane with actors Robert Smith, Shawn Jarecki, and Melanie Hernandez

The actors used mats on the floor to guide them, as well as walking sticks. Every once in a while, director Greg Shane would snap snap snap his fingers to given audible cues for the performers to help them navigate the stage — which they did flawlessly.

What was also interesting: the diversity of the cast, not just in terms of race and age, but in their sight impairment. One actor, Robert, was born blind; another, Shawn, has been steadily losing his sight to retinitis pigmentosa since he was a teenager; the lead actress, Cookie, lost her sight due to an injury she suffered as a result of domestic violence.

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Lead actress “Cookie” with actor Ernest Pipoly

They’d come from as far away as Long Beach to work on this show, mostly on ACCESS buses. That means long rides, even by LA standards. But every single person told me rehearsal was the highlight of their week. They’ve been working to craft and develop the show for the past year.

Lead actor Shawn Jarecki, whose sight is impaired by retinitis pigmentosa, put it best: “If anyone’s feeling depressed who has 20-20 vision, they can look at us and say, ‘You know what these guys are up to here, doing their thing, doing what they need to do, why if I’m in a sad state, I should just get over it.’”

The production of the comedy, named after the faltering nightclub at the show’s centerpiece, “Yesterday’s,” opens on Friday at the Promenade Playhouse in Santa Monica and runs through May 5th.

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