We had the good fortune of connecting with Sky Paley and the THTR TRUK we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sky, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
We believe the community of Los Angeles deserves theater of the highest quality that is both accessible and FREE. We are committed to extending ourselves and our resources to the people and places with which theater has lost touch.
Our mission is to present accessible theater that reflects the vibrant, diverse world in which we live.
Great theater is for everyone. Not just those who can afford it. And with the economy the way it is, the best, most practical solution was to make it free. Space is at a premium. Small theaters that used to charge $10 are now charging $30-$40 dollars and the people of Los Angeles aren’t earning more than they were 20 years ago. So, after grad school I saw an opportunity. What if we brought high quality theater to the people that was FREE?
The Echo sponsored THTR TRUK was launched in the summer of 2020 when we went to the West Adams neighborhood and enacted children’s stories for families in front yards. In 2021, we presented two family oriented presentations in Elysian Park. Earlier this year (Spring 2022), we mounted two site-specific performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Elysian Park that brought together over 200 people from every walk of life in Los Angeles. This Summer, the THTR TRUK will present Midsummer two more times on August 13th and 27th.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have a couple of Tag Lines that best represent my “brand”. The first is “I love telling stories that change the way we see the world” and the other is “Artist at Large”. Over the past 20 years I have worked in so many different capacities as an artist. At the end of the day I am a storyteller. I have told stories as a solo artist-actor, as a playwright, as a podcast writer, as a director, and as an acting coach. I believe everyone in Los Angeles has a story to tell – whether they are a street vendor or a set designer.
I was born in Canada and raised in the Caribbean. My first theatrical experience was in the fourth grade when I played the titular role in the West African folktale “Anansi the Spider Man”. It was pretty great. In retrospect, I was probably miscast, but at the same time, I was the only one who wanted to play the role. Most importantly, I was exposed to an incredible story and another culture’s experience – I still sing the song today “Anansi is a spider, Anansi is a man, Anansi is West Indian and West African!”
The art I am most proud of is my solo-show ANTIMAN. In this story I play four characters – myself at the age of 5, my mother, my step father, and the island of St. Croix. It is a story that touches on so many subjects from racism and colonialism, to homophobia, climate change, and mental health. It is about human survival and the cycle of violence that defines America and capitalism.
The best art for me is when the very personal expresses the universal. Right now I am producing a podcast story about meeting my father for the first time last summer. This story starts out rather simply, but ultimately touches on so much – from mental health and organized crime to fame and feminism.
In terms of has it been easy? Nothing has been easy. But it’s simple, it all comes down to faith. One of the lessons I’ve learned is that, every time I’ve experienced something that has felt like the “end of the world” – it was in fact setting me up to help someone else down the road.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When I was driving as a side gig, people would ask me this question all the time. I loved helping people out. For me the question really revolves around doing the things that only L.A has to offer. One of my favorite suggestions is to see the taping of a live show – there are so many and the tickets are free!
My second suggestion is The Peterson museum. Sure LACMA, sure The Getty. Those are obvious, but LA is about the car and its long history with the automobile. My favorite curated art exhibits are the ones that tell a story. After I went to The Peterson, I had a new and deeper understanding of LA.
Ironically, I sold my car at the beginning of the pandemic. Public transportation was free at the time which made it viable. Now I use it to go everywhere. Just last month my friend was visiting from Canada; We took the train to Highland Park and he was totally blown away. I think more and more the identity of LA is moving away from “rugged individualism” and more towards “rugged collectivism”. Get to know the city – its streets and people – one block at a time.
In terms of food I would recommend Mexican, Thai, or Korean. There are so many great options; some of my personal favorites (but not limited to) are Guisados, Jitlada, and Soot Bull Jeep. I grew up in the Caribbean, so my bonus spot would be NATRALIART on Washington Blvd. Oh and a smoothie at Simply Wholesome!
I also love the guava empanadas and the cafe con leche at Cafe Tropical.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Lol this feels like an acceptance speech. I don’t want to leave anyone out but truly everyone. My family, The Echo Theater Company, Mio Adilman, Michele Shay, the music of Vaughn Benjamin, Bob Holman, The THTR TRUK artists, Clara Bottoms, my back surgeon. Currently reading Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.
Main Photo: Clara Bottoms ANTIMAN (Poster): Property of Sky Paley – art design by Alfred Hawkins THTR TRUK Group Photo: Makaela Vogel THTR TRUK Animation: Property of Sky Paley – animation by Dezmond Arnkvarn Anansi The Spiderman: Property of Sky Paley