The real estate crisis takes the stage at REDCAT’s “The Most Beautiful Home… Maybe”

Karla Mosley stars in REDCAT’s The Most Beautiful Home…Maybe.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

“If we can get used to seeing people living in tents, and that’s the norm, then we can also get used to the idea that anyone can be accommodated,” says actress Karla Mosley of the premise behind the new immersive Performance piece she plays in called “The Most Beautiful Home…Maybe” and plays at REDCAT through Saturday.

Mosley may be best known for playing Maya Avant Forrester on The Bold and the Beautiful, but she’s devoted much of her career to social justice and activism, which is why she ended up hosting an experimental show that attempts to… Fuse public awareness around America’s housing crisis. She achieves this by playing a chanteuse zebra in a shimmer of zebras.

Created by Mark Valdez and Ashley Sparks and produced by Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis, The Most Beautiful Home…Maybe uses time travel, statistics, policy-influenced facts, audience participation, torch songs, interactive games and conversations to create a to brainstorm practical solutions to one of our nation’s most pressing, entrenched problems.

After the show plays at REDCAT, it will travel to sister cities including Syracuse, NY, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Mesa, Arizona. On May 21, before the final show in LA, the group partnered with the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and Sustainable Little Tokyo for a full-day residential symposium titled Housewarming: Little Tokyo & Skid Row, which included a tour of includes both areas.

Valdez and Sparks have spent their careers at the intersection of art, theater, cultural organization, community engagement and consulting – and are uniquely poised to put performance practice at the service of effecting social, cultural and political change.

Two people with printed shirts smile.

Ashley Sparks and Mark Valdez are co-directors.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Valdez says the idea for the show came to him during a dark period of the Trump presidency, when he felt America’s tumultuous troubles were mounting at an alarming rate. As an artist, he felt a special urgency—as if he no longer had the luxury of changing hearts and minds. So he decided to create a show that would bring his audience to the forefront of housing politics.

“I wanted to invite them to a process in the hope and belief that they will change — and if they can change, then maybe our policies and practices can change, too,” says Valdez.

To create the script, Valdez and Sparks hosted a series of workshops in various locations across the country, inviting advocates, activists, policymakers, developers and government officials to participate. The aim was to discuss and formulate innovative solutions to problems such as homelessness, affordable housing, housing shortages, NIMBYism and more.

Valdez recalls a personal turning point during a workshop when someone asked one of the group’s housing partners, “What is the biggest challenge you face at work?” Her response was not a lack of support or money, but “a lack of imagination”.

“That’s when it was like, ‘Great, we can do this,’ because we can do something with the imagination, we know how to do it,” says Valdez.

Discussions about housing policy, Valdez and Sparks say, are often curtailed by fears that a particular policy will fail political scrutiny — and getting bills through is the name of the game in politics. So thinking about chronic issues like housing is getting smaller and smaller while the problem itself is getting bigger.

“We need a gigantic imaginary leap so we can start addressing the issues we’re facing,” says Valdez.

Actors perform on a stage with colored lights in purple, pink and yellow.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Part of that leap is simply pitching certain ideas in a public forum, he says. Words that might make a person laugh from a political meeting are welcome in The Most Beautiful Home…Maybe.

“What does it look like when everyone is settled?” is a question the show asks aloud. It then tries to paint a picture of that possible reality, hoping that if people can start imagining something like that, they can find their way there.

Sparks says the idea of ​​universal housing didn’t always seem so radical. She was moved to read a speech by Lyndon B. Johnson after he signed the Housing and Urban Development Act in 1965.

“We must ensure that every family in America lives in a dignified home and in a proud neighborhood, in a community of opportunity and in a city of promise and hope,” Johnson said.

If that had happened, Sparks wonders how different would our communities be? If everyone had access to affordable housing, seniors weren’t displaced, and people living paycheck to paycheck didn’t have to worry about shelter over their heads?

Our country would actually only be healthier and more prosperous if there were stable housing, she says.

“I can feel my body lighten as I envision this world,” says Sparks, “where people don’t live in fear and stress, with no shelter or losing their homes, or worried about where they will live when they grow old.”

Sparks has spent years in the weeds of what she calls “very technical housing policy” by working with various advocacy groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Housing Trust. She is also, as she puts it, “a theater idiot”.

“The skills you have as a theater artist are actually superpowers for solving community problems and creating spaces for people to have tough conversations,” says Sparks.

Among the concepts Mosley presented to the audience for consideration was removing the idea of ​​owning a single family home from the American Dream.

A man wears a brown coat and animal ears.

Bruce A. Young in “The Finest Home…Maybe.”

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Living can be communal and multi-generational, says Mosley, as opposed to living in single-family homes.

“We can re-imagine what our neighborhoods can look like and what a neighborhood is,” she says.

Valdez is particularly enthusiastic about this idea and says: “What would we create? What kind of high-density and co-operative housing models could we create? How do we build the additional 68 million homes we need? How do we incentivize large landlords to keep their units affordable?”

America’s housing crisis is not new, but in the wake of the pandemic, millions of middle-class Americans are now experiencing housing instability amid soaring rents and house prices. A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that nearly 55% of Californians are concerned about not having enough money to pay their rent or mortgage.

It’s a problem for everyone, from coast to coast, they say, and it requires solutions for everyone.

Perhaps the best place to start, says the team behind The Most Beautiful Home… Maybe, is to ask one question: “What if everyone in this country had a home?”

“The most beautiful home…maybe”

From where: REDCAT at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Complex, 631 W. 2nd St., LA
When: 8.30 p.m. Thursday, 4 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. Friday, 8.30 p.m. Saturday with parallel virtual show.
Tickets: $13-$25
Duration: 90 minutes without a break
The information: redcat.org, (213) 237-2800
COVID protocol: Proof of full vaccination is required, including booster vaccination if permitted. Masks are mandatory at all times. (Check website for changes.)

About Ellen Lewandowski

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