Highways Performance Space

Highways Performance Space is Southern California’s boldest center for new performance. In its 30th year, Highways continues to be an important alternative cultural center in Los Angeles that encourages radical artists from diverse communities to develop and present innovative new works. Described by the Los Angeles Times as “a hub of experimental theater, dance, solo drama and other multimedia performance,” Highways promotes the development of contemporary socially involved artists and art forms.

Our mission is to develop and present innovative performance and visual artists, promote interaction among people of diverse cultural backgrounds and engage artists and the communities they serve in cross-cultural dialogues about social, cultural and artistic issues.

Our Staff
Executive Director

Leo Garcia is a filmmaker, performance curator, producer, visual artist, actor and an award-winning playwright and served as Highways’ Artistic Director from 2003 through 2017 where developed and presented over 700 performance works. His work is influenced by the didactic of agitprop and inspired by the optimism of Shirley Temple.

Garcia produced the independent full length feature Excess Flesh, a psychological thriller with tones of body horror: a modern day Los Angeles. the entrapment of dreams. the prison of self. a la Polanski, Zulawski, von Trier. Excess Flesh premiered at SXSW on Friday, March 13, 2015. Theatrically, Excess Flesh was released for a one-week Limited Engagement in Los Angeles in October, 2105. The film is being distributed by Midnight Releasing.

Garcia also produced ten minutes is two hours, a short-form documentary video shot in South Sudan. ten minutes is two hours is both a work of and a commentary on cultural exploitation. It is a self-consciously “cinematic” recreation of a journey through a land plagued by the ghosts of colonialism and the present anxiety of conflicting religious and political agendas – both of which can often seem one and the same. Evoking a surreal sense of place, both very present and very distant, the video depicts the hazy lines between notions of “foreign aid” “missionary practice” and “colonialism,” and shows the ways history has of recycling itself. The essayistic, experimental nature of the work is inspired by the politically charged silent-era montage of Dovzhenko, Vertov, and Eisenstein and the later impressionistic film and video works of Marker and Godard.

Garcia worked for many years with his mentor internationally acclaimed playwright and director Maria Irene Fornes.  He has the unique and distinct honor of being a member of the “orginal writers” in Fornes’ playwright residency program at INTAR in NYC. He worked with Fornes as both a writer and actor. He has been directed by her in her plays in New York, Los Angeles and Siena, Italy at the Dionysia World Festival. Notably, Fornes also directed Garcia’s play, Dogs, at West Coast Ensemble Theater in Los Angeles. Garcia is one of two living playwrights whose work Fornes chose to direct.

As a playwright, Garcia has chronicled his family’s genealogy, ten-generations + of New Mexican family history, in his cycle of plays entitled The Abduction of Hernan Cortes: The New Mexico Cycle. The cycle explores the themes of abduction: of land, of self, and of alien abduction, and follows the lives of five New Mexican families from 1598 to present.

Garcia’s plays have won awards from The National Endowment for the Arts, Theatre Communications Group, New York Foundation for the Arts, Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Repertory, The National Hispanic Media Coalition, and MCA/Universal. His works have been developed and presented by numerous nationally-established companies and presenters, including The New York Shakespeare Public Festival, The Jewish Repertory Theatre, International Arts Relations Theatre (INTAR), The Los Angeles Theater Center, The South Coast Repertory Theatre, The Tiffany Theatre, and Santa Fe Stages, among many others.

Garcia’s visual art works can be viewed at http://www.leogarcia.com/visual-art and http://www.myalienabduction.net.

While in New York, Garcia pursued his career as an actor. He has appeared in over 30 off-Broadway and regional theatre productions. Garcia also hosted the Emmy nominated NBC Special, Another American.

Garcia received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the Asolo Conservatory in Sarasota, Florida. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Virginia Commonwealth University followed by a yearlong apprenticeship at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville.

After receiving his MFA, Garcia moved to New York City where he worked as an actor and playwright. His thesis project, a play about the relationship between Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb and their psychological crime was optioned for a workshop at the Jewish Repertory Theatre in New York City. That same play was submitted to Ms. Fornes for consideration as playwright in residence at the International Arts Relations Theatre (INTAR), where Garcia served five residencies under the direction of Ms. Fornes.

Garcia’s television work brought him to Los Angeles, where he guest starred in episodic television and was a regular on a daytime drama series. As a filmmaker, his film, A Rainy Day, was distributed by Universal Television and was shown in festivals nationally and internationally.

While in Los Angeles, he served as an artist, teacher, director and producer for numerous productions and classes at Highways Performance Space; resident playwright with the Mark Taper Forums Latino Theatre Initiative; and project artistic director and playwright with the community-based San Diego Playwrights Project. Garcia has also been a fixture on the Los Angeles alternative performing arts scene for many years, one of a handful of artists who represent a fully developed, professional approach to multidisciplinary work.

Out Magazine recognized Garcia as one of the OUT 100 of 2005, a list of the years most interesting, influential, and newsworthy LGBT people as a result of his many contributions to the arts as well as his indefatigable activism on behalf of alternative artists and the alternative arts community through the support and presentation of their performance works and in service to the community at large. In 2010, Garcia was honored by the HARC Foundation as a recipient of Trumpet Award for his unique and extraordinary contributions to the Arts and to humanity. In April 2016, The Stage Raw Los Angeles Theater Awards will honor Garcia with its Queen of the Angels Award for Special Achievement.

As a young person, Garcia was influenced by the presentational, didactic, agitprop plays he discovered in a little red book of “actos” by El Teatro Campesino and was inspired by the hopes and optimism he witnessed in Shirley Temple films. He was often at odds with the extremes of his interest. On one hand, he sought to dramatize the sociopolitical, material, and cultural issues of the exploited, and on the other hand, he hoped to sing and tap his way to Hollywood stardom. Garcia began his social activism at age sixteen, when his father sent him to work as an apprentice recruiter for a federal VISTA program funded by the Office of Economic Opportunity. Garcia’s job was to assist in the recruitment of high school aged children of agricultural workers from the rural communities of Colorado and to orient them to the real possibilities of achieving higher education.​

Garcia continued his community service through his high school and early undergraduate years and came to believe that the spirit of service is not only an asset, but also a requirement.

Though inclined to pursue a career in the social sciences, Garcia never forgot the impact that the works of El Teatro Campesino had on him nor did he forget his joy in the magic of Hollywood. As Garcia navigated through college, he pursued the theatre as a way of having it all, a form of a political and social education, he thought, as well as a theatrical one. This mix of influences created a syncretism that satisfied his needs.

To email: leogarcia@highwaysperformance.org
Website: http://www.leogarcia.com

I’m aligned with Highways’ commitment to diversity, to the development of new works, to the exploration of new forms of performance, and to our commitment to the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. I will continue to facilitate artistic expression in a supportive, non-elitist, non-judgmental, non-dogmatic way. At Highways, I believe that we contribute to culture and society by affecting progressive change through performance. There’s no place I’d rather be.

-Leo Garcia

Artistic Director

Patrick Kennelly writes, produces, directs, designs, edits and curates for film & video, theater, and the performance and visual arts. In his highly stylized and darkly surreal genre-infused works, Kennelly examines the fun-house nature of modern identity politics and looks for its causes at the personal, social, and political level. What is unleashed is a style of extreme “raw pop.”

Kennelly was a recipient of the 2008 Princess Grace Award for Theater, and has received fellowships and grants from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the City of Santa Monica, and the Center for Cultural Innovation. He received his BFA in Film/Video at CalArts and an MFA in Theater Direction at UCLA.

Kennellys most recent project was the feature film Excess Flesh, which he co-wrote, produced, directed and co-edited. It premiered at SXSW in March 2015 to much controversy. The Daily Beast called it “the most twisted movie at SXSW and of the year.” It is distributed on VOD/DVD by Midnight Releasing.

To email: patrick@highwaysperformance.org
Website: www.patrickkennelly.com

A History

Founded in 1989, Highways has been a leading force in offering a diverse cultural perspective to Southern California residents. Although the political climate has changed over the years, Highways has remained true to its original intention and continues to push the boundaries of convention in some of the most unusual and provocative ways.

During the first few years Highways was under the guidance of its founders, writer Linda Frye Burnham and performance artist Tim Miller. However, in 1992 Burnham relinquished her duties as Co-Director leaving Miller as the driving force behind the organization. Throughout the tumultuous 90′s, Miller guided Highways through many organizational and structural hurdles and changes. All the while maintaining its commitment to the emerging socially conscious and forward-thinking arts community.

In the early part of 2000, Miller announced his decision to step down as Artistic Director of Highways to focus on his social activism through his performance work. Danielle Brazell stepped up to take over as Artistic Director until December of 2003 when Leo Garcia came on board. Garcia served as Highways’ Artistic Director through 2017 when he bacame Executive Director and Patrick Kennely took the helm. Patrick Kennelly currently serves as Highways’ Artistic Director.

Most recently Highways has received special funding from the California Arts Council, California Community Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, the The Garcia Family Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, The Bridges Larson Foundation in memory of James Bridges, and the Joan Montgomery Hotchkis Fund of the Liberty Hill Foundation, the City of Santa Monica Cultural Affairs Division, The L.A. County Department of Cultural Affairs, The Getty Grant Program and the City of West Hollywood. Highways has received support from the California Arts Council, California Presenters Initiative, WESTAF, the L. A. National/State/County Partnership, the L. A. County Music and Performing Arts Commission, American Airlines, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, The Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Fund, Rockefeller, The Warhol Foundation, The Peter Norton Family Foundation, ASTREA Foundation, and Liberty Hill Lesbian and Gay Community Fund. In addition, Highways’ has received awards for its innovations as a community-based presenter from The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights, the GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and The Los Angeles Drama Critics Association. Highways’ is a member of the National Performance Network.

“…performing my own words at Highways was a defining moment in my career.”

-Michael Kearns (1989)

“Highways never censored me even though I did projects which might have lost them funding, board members, or gotten us all arrested.

-Annie Sprinkle (1992)

“Highways became a kind of tree house headquarters for artists looking our time square in the eyes.”

-Cofounder Tim Miller

“Highways is an essential eco-system, the last wetland of a culture thats being drained of everything dirty and juicy.”

-Holly Hughes

“In Los Angeles, the only place that supported experimentation and alternative theatre was, and still is, Highways.”

-Illan Egeland (2000)

“I was so impressed with how Highways would take chances on new performers without any snobbery or attitude.”

-Alex Luu (2001)

“From the beginning, you feel that you enter into a relationship with the space.”

-Artel (2007)