One third of the hyrda-headed comedy monster Culture Clash, Ric Salinas plays the character Norte-Sur in the ensemble’s most recent theater piece, Water & Power at the Taper. Last week, Chicken Corner peppered Culture Clash's Richard Montoya with queries about Echo Park and the new play. This week, the conversation continues as Salinas bats around similar queries.
Chicken Corner: When I ran into you recently (in Silver Lake) you said that after the previews of “Water & Power,” Culture Clash decided to drop some of the jokes because there were too many laughs, at the expense of the larger story. As someone who has performed in so many pieces that are basically built out of laughter how does it feel to have cut back on it? Does it make the experience of performing Norte-Sur’s role fundamentally different?
Ric Salinas: Yes, we've toned down the first 10 minutes of the play because of the giddy laughter from our fans that expect to see a classic C.C. show. It just makes sense to keep the humor tight and to more importantly tell this modern noir story. There are still many humorous moments, Soprano-style humor. I'm enjoying not having to rely on jokes as a way to keep an audience involved. A new refreshing approach for Culture Clash; we've got to keep re-inventing ourselves. Except for our other world premiere play, "Zorro in Hell" is a throw back to our old days; it's a little like Spamalot! We mount that play the week we close "W&P" at the taper. We head for La Jolla Playhouse to don the mask for San Diego County and Tijuana.
You are a resident of Silver Lake. How would you characterize the difference between Silver Lake and Echo Park?
Silverlake has Trader Joes and Echo Park used to have Pioneer Market. When Pioneer Market was still around, that's how I would characterize as the difference between both hoods. I would sometimes call Pioneer Market, emigrant market. But now there is a Walgreens, so is Echo Park turning into a Silver Lake?
Chicken Corner: I have heard that you visit Echo Park on occasion – that you are sometimes seen in the French restaurant Taix shouting very loudly at the television. Can you explain?
Ric Salinas: Taix is Culture Clash's "Cheers Bar." Everyone knows our name. Taix for me can be many things, a great place for dinner, draft beer, meeting place, martini lounge, alt music scene, and a sports bar, all in one. And yes, I've been known to yell at the TV during a sports event!
Chicken Corner: If you were going to draw a map of Echo Park look like? Where would it start and end? What are your personal landmarks?
RIc Salinas: If I were to draw a map of Echo Park it would look like Arkansas: starting from the Hollywood Freeway, up Benton to the 5 Freeway, across Elysian Park and crossing down Figueroa. My favorite landmark would be Echo Park Lake with the paddle boats, the bridge, the lotus, the fountain in the middle of the lake, fishing, jogging and the view of Downtown L.A. (except for that one incident: the paddle boat drive-by. Of course they were caught!).