For well over a decade, Debbie Devine and her husband, Jay McAdams of 24th STreet Theatre have been making the Day of the Dead come to life at their theater. Located Downtown, near USC, just off the 10-Freeway, Dia de los Muertos is one of their annual events that literally stops traffic with its free block party featuring live music with this year being headlined by Louie Cruz Beltran and his Latin Jazz Orchestra. While the theater is open to the public, the main attractions are in the parking lot across the street with food vendors, face painting in the traditional calaveras makeup, (black-ringed eyes set in a white face), and arts and crafts featuring bright flowers (luminarias) and painted sugar skulls.
One of the most popular activities is the graveyard where visitors can paint on a cross to memorialize loved ones. Meeting McAdams in preparation for this event, he described how the community comes together in this special day of remembrance. He recalled one year in particular when he saw a couple sit down beside gang members working on a cross of their own. The couple painted a memorial to their child while the gang members made a tribute to their friend who had been shot earlier that year. Neither party disturbed the other. McAdams says both were able to share and experience their grief in a creative but respectful way. The graveyard becomes a colorful backdrop to the festivities and is a favorite of the event.
Artistic Director, Devine realized there was a need for this holiday to be observed in their neighborhood when as she was striking a set on Oct. 31, she saw how much the streets came to life. At first, 24th STreet Theatre recognized Halloween with the traditional spooky psychics, candy and costumes until she realized the holiday that needed to being recognized was actually Dia de los Muertos, and soon a tradition at the theater was born. All these years later, families from all over the area come to celebrate and take part in the free festivities which keeps growing and drawing a bigger crowd and notable performers each year.
Make Dia de los Muertos extra memorable by being a part of a tradition at 24th STreet Theatre.