the transformative power of live theater


The Zip Code Plays Recommended Readings

The Zip Code Plays are a unique theatrical experience: once they are available, listeners can enjoy the plays in any order and at any time. The experience won’t be shared in the immediate way a play usually is. The flexibility allows for greater ability to delve deeply into the dramaturgical aspects of each play, such as the history, geography, and culture of the ZIP codes. To help in this endeavor, dramaturg Ryan McRee cultivated a list of reading materials to accompany each play.


Southern California in the ’50’s—Sun, Fun, and Fantasy, by Charles Phoenix

Southern California in the ‘50s: Sun, Fun, and Fantasy―a treasury of retro car culture, spaceage style, suburbia, Hollywood, mountain, desert and seaside resorts, and America's favorite amusement parks. In the 1950s, Southern California was the place to be. The mood was up, prosperity ruled, and the standard of living was high. It was the land of plenty for a new generation of movers and shakers who reinvented the way America would live. Filled with colorful memorabilia, never-before-published vintage photos, and carefully researched historical text, Southern California in the ‘50s covers the phenomenon of the space-age promised land―L.A. and beyond―and the society that created a cultural explosion. See and read about how Southern Californians lived, where they worked, how they played and the way they got around. In these pages readers will cruise in hot rods to the drive-in theater, learn how McDonald's inspired a fast-food revolution, and see the suburban spread of stylish tract homes, supermarkets, coffee shops, bowling alleys and shopping centers.

Downtown in Detail: Close-Up On the Historic Buildings of Downtown Los Angeles, by Tom Zimmerman

Until the late 1970s, Downtown Los Angeles was simply a relic to treasure, a symbol of suburban progress by its own demise. As businesses moved out of what was once the heart of the city, many Downtown buildings suffered the swing of the wrecking ball. But suddenly, up stepped the conservators of history, the people who cared that their city had a vivid past -- and magnificent buildings were saved. Now, through the lens of master photographer/historian Tom Zimmerman we see scores of reasons why. We see the stories the buildings tell, up close, and, yes, very personally. In Downtown in Detail, Zimmerman finds the unique vantage points from which to capture architectural details that are the highlights of buildings, the ones that are often undiscovered. He finds the sculptures, tiles, clock towers, gargoyles and bas-relief panels that historic architects used to define an era.

Sound, Space, and the City: Civic Performance in Downtown Los Angeles, by Marina Peterson

On summer nights on downtown Los Angeles's Bunker Hill, Grand Performances presents free public concerts for the people of the city. A hip hop orchestra, a mariachi musician, an Afropop singer, and a Chinese modern dance company are just a few examples of the eclectic range of artists employed to reflect the diversity of LA itself. At these concerts, shared experiences of listening and dancing to the music become sites for the recognition of some of the general aspirations for the performances, for Los Angeles, and for contemporary public life. In Sound, Space, and the City, Marina Peterson explores the processes—from urban renewal to the performance of ethnicity and the experiences of audiences—through which civic space is created at downtown performances. Along with archival materials on urban planning and policy, Peterson draws extensively on her own participation with Grand Performances, ranging from working in an information booth answering questions about the artists and the venue, to observing concerts and concert-goers as an audience member, to performing onstage herself as a cellist with the daKAH Hip Hop orchestra. The book offers an exploration of intersecting concerns of urban residents and scholars today that include social relations and diversity, public space and civic life, privatization and suburbanization and economic and cultural globalization. At a moment when cities around the world are undertaking similar efforts to revitalize their centers, Sound, Space, and the City conveys the underlying tensions of such projects and their relevance for understanding urban futures.

Images of America: Los Angeles’s Central Avenue Jazz by Sean J. O’Connell

From the late 1910s until the early 1950s, a series of aggressive segregation policies toward Los Angeles's rapidly expanding African American community inadvertently led to one of the most culturally rich avenues in the United States. From Downtown Los Angeles to the largely undeveloped city of Watts to the south, Central Avenue became the center of the West Coast jazz scene, nurturing homegrown talents like Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon, and Buddy Collette while also hosting countless touring jazz legends such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday. Twenty-four hours a day, the sound of live jazz wafted out of nightclubs, restaurants, hotel lobbies, music schools, and anywhere else a jazz combo could squeeze in its instruments for nearly 50 years, helping to advance and define the sound of America's greatest musical contribution.

Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles, by Clora Bryant, Buddy Collette, William Green, Steve isoardi, and Marl Young

By day, Central Avenue was the economic and social center for black Angelenos. By night, it was a magnet for Southern Californians, black and white, who wanted to hear the very latest in jazz. The oral histories in this book provide firsthand reminiscences by and about some of our great jazz legends: Art Farmer recalls the first time Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie played bebop on the West Coast; Britt Woodman tells of a teenaged Charles Mingus switching from cello to bass; Clora Bryant recalls hard times on the road with Billie Holiday. Here, too, are recollections of Hollywood's effects on local culture, the precedent-setting merger of the black and white musicians' unions, and the repercussions from the racism in the Los Angeles Police Department in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Central Avenue Sounds fills a major gap in California's cultural history, and it shows the influence of a community whose role became as significant in the jazz world as that of Harlem and New Orleans. The voices in this book also testify to the power and satisfaction that can come from making music.

- Santa Monica: A Look Back to 1902 From Today, by Michael Murphy and Jens Lucking

Over one hundred years ago, volunteer firemen sold a book, titled Santa Monica Fire Department, Souvenir Book of Santa Monica, 1902, door to door. Legend has it that the newly-established fire department promised to fight fires for those who purchased the book, but made no such promise to those who didn't. These 110 photos are from that book. The author discovered the book years ago in the house he grew up in, which had been owned by Santa Monica Mayor Edmond S. Gillette in the 1930s. The 1902 book contained 110 interior and exterior photographs of houses and businesses in what we know today as western Santa Monica, and a few images from other locations around Los Angeles. When he picked it up again, creating a comparison book seemed like a natural idea.

Franklin Murphy? It’s not a name that is widely known; even during his lifetime the public knew little of him. But for nearly thirty years, Murphy was the dominant figure in the cultural development of Los Angeles. Behind the scenes, Murphy used his role as confidant, family friend, and advisor to the founders and scions of some of America’s greatest fortunes―Ahmanson, Rockefeller, Ford, Mellon, and Annenberg―to direct the largesse of the wealthy into cultural institutions of his choosing. In this first full biography of Franklin D. Murphy (1916-994), Margaret Leslie Davis delivers the compelling story of how Murphy, as chancellor of UCLA and later as chief executive of the Times Mirror media empire, was able to influence academia, the media, and cultural foundations to reshape a fundamentally provincial city. The Culture Broker brings to light the influence of L.A.’s powerful families and chronicles the mixed motives behind large public endeavors. Channeling more than one billion dollars into the city’s arts and educational infrastructure, Franklin Murphy elevated Los Angeles to a vibrant world-class city positioned for its role in the new era of global trade and cross-cultural arts.

For more than a decade, the UCLA dynasty defined college basketball. In twelve seasons from 1964 to 1975, John Wooden’s teams won ten national titles, including seven consecutive championships. The Bruins made history by breaking numerous records, but they also rose to prominence during a turbulent age of political unrest and youthful liberation. When Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton–the most famous college basketball players of their generation–spoke out against racism, poverty, and the Vietnam War, they carved out a new role for athletes, casting their actions on and off the court in a political light.
The Sons of Westwood tells the story of the most significant college basketball program at a pivotal period in American cultural history. It weaves together a story of sports and politics in an era of social and cultural upheaval, a time when college students and college athletes joined the civil rights movement, demonstrated against the Vietnam War, and rejected the dominant Cold War culture. This is the story of America’s culture wars played out on the basketball court by some of college basketball’s most famous players and its most memorable coach.

Pacific Palisades owes its name to its geography. The cliffs looming above the beach reminded the early developers of the Hudson River Palisades in New York. The name for this eventually affluent coastal enclave of the city of Los Angeles was first used in 1906 for an area of Santa Monica homes. Palisades Park in Santa Monica hugs the top of the bluff. So it must have seemed natural to name the area north of the Santa Monica Palisades Pacific Palisades. Today Pacific Palisades is synonymous with lovely homes and distinguished residents as well as rocky cliffs. Many of the photographs reproduced here have never before been published and show how the land changed from open mesas to the thriving community it is today. Pacific Palisades completes the story of the Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica and its neighboring rancho–the Boca de Santa Monica–and the Santa Monica Land and Water Company.

n the 1930s and 40s, Los Angeles became an unlikely cultural sanctuary for a distinguished group of German artists and intellectuals―including Thomas Mann, Theodore W. Adorno, Bertolt Brecht, Fritz Lang, and Arnold Schoenberg―who had fled Nazi Germany. During their years in exile, they would produce a substantial body of major works to address the crisis of modernism that resulted from the rise of National Socialism. Weimar Germany and its culture, with its meld of eighteenth-century German classicism and twentieth-century modernism, served as a touchstone for this group of diverse talents and opinions.

Weimar on the Pacific is the first book to examine these artists and intellectuals as a group. Ehrhard Bahr studies selected works of Adorno, Horkheimer, Brecht, Lang, Neutra, Schindler, Döblin, Mann, and Schoenberg, weighing Los Angeles’s influence on them and their impact on German modernism. Touching on such examples as film noir and Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, Bahr shows how this community of exiles reconstituted modernism in the face of the traumatic political and historical changes they were living through.

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