How Art At The Rendon: STORIES Combined Film, Theater, and Community in the DTLA Arts District

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Art at the Rendon: Stories photo by Jack Burke

Anyone who happened to walk by the old Rendon Hotel in DTLA last weekend might’ve been surprised to see the rooms lit up and people visible inside. Was the Rendon back open for business? Well… not exactly. The people in the windows weren’t real—they were prerecorded film projections—but the entire hotel was abuzz with activity. Many of the rooms held “tenants” even more temporary than the ones who stayed in the single-room-occupancy hotel in its heyday. This time around, they were actors and musicians performing in Art at the Rendon: STORIES, an immersive, operatic experience with only three public performances—Friday, November 9, Saturday, November 10, and Sunday, November 11.

What inspired this unusual and captivating experience? Ralph Ziman and Maria Greenshields-Ziman, the artists who own the building, created Art at the Rendon as a way to continue fostering creativity in the DTLA Arts District. Art at the Rendon kicked off in early June with Hidden Rooms, which brought together more than 80 artists to create site-specific works as part of an interactive installation that filled the entire hotel. The event raised $24,000 for local arts organizations, ICA LA and Art Share LA.

Art at the Rendon: STORIES was an even bigger success. More than 2.850 people attended, raising $26,000 from ticket sales and donations to benefit two DTLA arts nonprofits: Inner-City Arts and Cornerstone Theater Company. Ralph Ziman directed the project, with Maria Greenshields-Ziman as creative director, and Cartwheel Art founder Cindy Schwarzstein as event producer.

While Hidden Rooms focused mostly on visual art, for STORIES, they chose to collaborate with performing artists on an exploration of the Rendon’s complex history. Greenshields-Ziman told Diversions LA, “We want to show glimpses into the lives of the people we imagined might have lived there.”

Art at the Rendon: Stories photo by Jack Burke

Exterior Projections at The Rendon and Fortune Teller Room with Sma Litzsinger and Zacharian Griffin. Photos (top and above): Jack Burke

Similarly to how the Hidden Rooms artists developed their site-specific pieces, for STORIES, they brought performers to visit specific parts of the hotel. In an interview with LA Downtown News, Greenshields-Ziman said, “We would just kind of sit in the room with them and ask them how they felt about the room. They would all come up with these fantastic ideas about what their character could be. So it was truly a collaborative effort.”

The resulting experience makes audience members feel like voyeurs. Here’s how Greenshields-Ziman explained it to No Proscenium: “The patrons explore the rooms and corridors of the hotel and catch glimpses into the lives and living spaces of the inhabitants. Due to the close quarters of each room, there is an intimacy to the voyeurism that the audience might first perceive with a frisson of unease.”

Art at the Rendon: Stories photo by Jack Burke

2 People Getting Ready with Jacon Demonte-Finn and Samantha Abdala. Photo: Jack Burke

Art at the Rendon: STORIES was just as captivating as that implies, and press coverage has been overwhelmingly positive, from a recommendation in LA Weekly to a piece in Artillery Mag listing it as one of the reasons to be grateful for L.A.’s art scene. On Medium, writer Andy Romanoff described it this way, “First, imagine yourself at an abandoned hotel on the east edge of downtown, a neighborhood torn between the many new buildings going up, and the remains of hundred-year-old LA. Then imagine a crew of artists and visionaries given free rein to create an experience, making a happening for you in the hallways and rooms of the hotel. Finally, throw in video projections, an opera singer, and actors playing out the lives of residents past, and all this happening right in front of your face. Then you can begin to understand why this show is special.”

Reflecting on STORIES after it wrapped, director Ralph Ziman admitted that the process had been a bit scary. “We really didn’t know if it was going to work,” he says, but ultimately, all of the elements came together. “It was amazing working with the actors because they brought so much to it. I think activating the outside with the projections gave people a sense that there was something cool going on, and it was exciting seeing the building come to life. It felt very alive from the street and the parking lot. Overall, it was an amazing collaboration with a lot of people.”

Art at the Rendon: Stories photo by Fred Hoerr

Rachel Staples Guettler. Photo: Fred Hoerr

Art at the Rendon: Stories photo by Fred Hoerr

Charlie Chan and Friends. Photo: Fred Hoerr

Art at the Rendon: Stories photo by Fred Hoerr

The Violinist with Simone Thompson. Photo: Fred Hoerr

Art at the Rendon: Stories photo by Fred Hoerr

Johhny Cubert White Jr. Photo: Fred Hoerr

Art at the Rendon: Stories photo by Fred Hoerr

Drag Queens. Photo: Fred Hoerr

Art at the Rendon: Stories photo by Diane Cockerill

The Baritone with Kenneth Enlow. Photo: Diane Cockerill

Art at the Rendon: Stories photo by Fred Hoerr

Pamela Pacheco. Photo: Fred Hoerr



Ralph Ziman // Director
Maria Greenshields-Ziman // Creative Director
Cindy Schwarzstein // Event Producer
Jennifer A. Davis // Production Designer
Stevie George // Cinematographer 
Nolan Silverstein // Media Producer


Alex Elliott / Alexander Salas / Andrew Alvarez / Angelina Coppola / Bailey Edwards / Bethany Renne Nava / BJ Averell / Blair Wench / Blasphemy Nava / Bobak Cyrus / Bruce Lemon / Charlie Chan / Cherry Sur Bete / Chole Darling / Christine Hillberg + Puka / Christopher Humphreys / Clit Eatswood (aka Fidget June) / Courage / Crystal Palace / Danny Hackin / David Torrez (aka Sputnik) / Dominique Shelley / Drew Bird / Efran Martinez / Emily Loynachan / Feminism / Francesca Quintano / Geneva West / George Spielvogel / Gerson Macias / Henry Quintanilla / Jacob DeMonte-Finn / James P. Scott / Johnny Cubert White Jr. / Joseph “Nuke” Montalvo / Joseph Gilbert / Justin Baker / Justin Shenkarow / K Butterfly Smith / Karlie Blair / Kenneth Enlow / Kenny Ramos / Laura Richards / Lena Valentine / Linzi Graham / Logan Polish / / Malcom Xstasy / Marco Ramos / Mary Lou Ruiz / Marzieh Sharif / Meredith Placko / Montana Mills / Naia Schroder / Nano Arenado / Oliver Smith-Perrin / Pamela Pacheco / Paradox One / Rachel Staples Guettler /  Riley Nixon / Robert “Sticky” Shaw  / Sadie Susselman / Samantha Abdala / Scott Kelley Thomas / Simone Thompson / Sma Litzsinger / Soren Royer-McHugh / Terence Leclere / The Oracle / Tony Berrow / The Vignes Rooftop Revival / Tim Jones / Ursala Major / Val Susselman / Van Jazmin / Valentine Anger / Zachariah Griffin

Production Crew:

Angelina Coppola // Production Coordinator + Artist Liaison
Brandon Wollner // Projection Mapping
Casey Mixter // Production Coordinator
Francesca Quintano // Scenic Artist
Joey Breese // Film Editor
Lindsey Esplin // Media Liaison
Lisa Beebe // Editorial Support
Max Ziman // Camera Assistant
Michelle Homami // Social Media
Sandy Shimooka // Assistant Stage Manager
Tim Amick // Event Technical Director

Community Partners: 

ATF Private Security // Angel City Brewery // Artist & Craftsman Supply // Café Societe // Califia Farms // Cartwheel Art // Downtown Event Cleaning Services // Dromebox Labs // Es Todo // GROW DTLA // Guerrilla Tacos // Guru Printers // Infuse Spirits // Pali Wine // Pizzanista // Sony Pictures Studios Property and Costume Rentals // The Bread Lounge // Tope Chico // WOVA: World of Video and Audio

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