Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 Characters
by Anna Deavere Smith

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Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 Characters

(Drama for Students)

Although Smith interviewed about 175 people in her research for Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, in the published work containing their monologues she includes just under a third of them. In any given performance of her play, she further limits the number of persons depicted but had included some who are not in the published work. An example is Maria, Juror #7 in the second Rodney King trial, who was interviewed and added to the Mark Taper Forum production of the play two weeks after it opened. Another example is the opera diva Jessye Norman.

There is actually no set cast of characters in Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. As she deems appropriate, Smith selects the cast from her gallery of choices both to fit her specific audience and her artistic aims of the moment.

Theresa Allison
The founder of Mothers Reclaiming our Children (Mothers ROC), Theresa Allison is also the mother of gang-truce negotiator Dewayne Holmes. She explains that her organization started after the killing of her nephew, Tiny, who was shot in the face. She speaks of the unjust system, and her belief that Tiny was actually shot by officers dressed as gang members, two of whom she calls "Cagney and Lacey." She recalls the day of the shooting as looking "like the crucifixion of Jesus." It was a day, too, that changed some happy people to "hurting people." She goes on to tell how her son, Dewayne, was arrested and how she and her friends surrounded the police cruiser, fearful that the cops wanted to kill him. He was set free but was marked thereafter and was eventually picked up and sentenced for a crime that Theresa insists he did not commit.

Anonymous man
An unnamed white juror in the first Rodney King trial, this soft-spoken man breaks into tears as he recalls his ambivalent feelings about the verdict and its aftermath. He speaks of the personal confusion and the threats on his life. Most agonizing was a letter received from the KKK offering the jurors its support and extending an offer of membership. That invitation shamed the man and left him remorseful.

Twilight Bey
A slight, graceful young black, Twilight Bey is a member of the Crips gang and one of the organizers of the truce between the Crips and the Bloods, a rival gang. He speaks very confidently of his youth, as a community "watchdog," and of the significance of his name as indicating that he has "twice the knowledge of those my age." He relates his name to the idea of limbo, as somehow being caught in a place ahead of his time, and he talks about what he sees at night, the drug-addicted "walking dead'' and the young kids beating up elderly people at bus stops. He is also the titular character of the play, partly because what he says about limbo—a place between darkness and understanding—is an appropriate thematic metaphor for the entire work.

BigAl
See Allen Cooper

Elaine Brown
A woman in her early fifties, Elaine Brown is the former head of the Black Panther Party and author of A Taste of Power. She grieves over the fact that the protesters took to the street with no plan, just rage. She says that commitment must be based "not on hate but on love," and that change cannot be brought about by a "piss-poor, ragtag, unorganized, poorly armed" and "poorly led army."

Allen Cooper
A large, ex-gang member and former convict, Big Al is an activist in the nation-wide trace movement. He offers a defensive litany on life in the LA ghetto, where even a bubble gum machine packs a gun and nothing spells trouble 'til the black man gets his hands on it." He repeatedly says, "You gotta look at history, baby." He sees the African American as victim, and questions whether Reginald Denny might have driven his truck into the black neighborhood as an ''intimidation move."

Reginald O. Denny
Reginald Denny, the white truck driver beaten and shot at during the LA riot, describes what little he remembers of the experience. He is "upbeat" and "speaks loudly." He admits to being unaware of the King verdict and its aftermath until visitors came to...

(The entire section is 2,223 words.)