The Lighthouse Repertory Theatre production of “This is Crescent City” helps enlighten spectators about a past often overlooked.
Chris Corpstein plays schoolteacher Norman Randal, who leads students in an exploration of their town’s past in LRT’s production of “This is Crescent City.” Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
So said cast and audience members during what was billed as a “public forum” following Sunday’s matinee performance.
A group of about 20 people sat in a “California circle” — as cast member Anthony Trombetti described it — to discuss the musical’s attempt at addressing controversial topics regarding Del Norte County’s history and how it made audience members and some of the actors feel.
The play tells the story of a fictional history teacher, Norman Randal, who inspires his students to delve into the roots of their town’s history. What they discover forces them to confront not only the town’s past, but their own as a result of growing up here.
The play’s characters have diverse backgrounds representing subcultures within Del Norte.
“I felt like I knew every one of them,” said Carla Critz, who played a woman working in various food service positions representing the underemployed of Crescent City.
She thought “This is Crescent City” playwright Ruth Rhodes developed “3D characters.”
“None of them came across as caricatures,” said Critz.
The play’s antagonist came in the form of an old, white School Board director without a high level of education whose family was part of Del Norte’s sordid past.
An audience member from Brookings, Ore., with a Northern European heritage stated he felt guilty after watching the play, but was appreciative of the topics it tackled.
Rhodes said her inspiration for the play came after speaking with a Native friend who shared some of the hardships her family experienced at the hands of white settlers.
Karen Beaver, who plays a Native American in the play, said white people need to stand up against social injustice and put history into its proper light for it to be taken seriously, because minorities will not be heard.
If a Hispanic woman stands up against perceived unfairness; “she’s going to be swept away as the crazy little Latino maid,” said Beaver.
Becky Wood, who played a Hmong woman, said the play helped her better understand the Hmong culture. She had previously felt in touch with that culture after she directed “West Side Story” in 2000 and cast several Hmong actors.
Her character in “This is Crescent City” represented the plight of the Hmong who began immigrating to the area in the 1980s.
“Our history makes up everything we are, but it doesn’t make our destiny,” said Wood, still dressed in her costume regalia with makeup lines stretching from the corners of her eyes to accentuate the idea of her Hmong character.
Some audience members said the play presented them with new information about the community.
One couple who recently moved here were unaware there were Hmong in the community.
Another woman who has been in Del Norte a couple of decades was unaware of the tension between the races the play depicted.
She said she didn’t witness it when her children were being raised in Del Norte County.
“I thought things were portrayed in the story really well,” she shared. “I learned some things I didn’t know.”
Everyone who spoke shared positive sentiments about what they saw and that they learned something.
It was mentioned there could be another forum following this Sunday’s matinee, which is the final showing.
“This is Crescent City” continues at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and concludes at 2 p.m. Sunday at Crescent Elk Auditorium, 994 G St. Tickets cost $15 for general admission and $10 for seniors and students and can be purchased at Del Norte Office Supply or at the door. An open forum facilitated by actor Anthony Trombetti will be held following the Nov. 10 matinee.