Ovation Fellows are current students or recent alumni from Los Angeles area universities.Â Fellows are paired with a Mentor, currently serving as an Ovation Award voter, and see productions and meet artists around Greater Los Angeles throughout the year.Â Their articles, posted on LAStageBlog, are intended to be their personal responses to their experiences, and not as critical reviews or representing the views of LA Stage Alliance.
Want to hear a ghost story?Â I always do. Here’s one: A little girl, six years old, the daughter of an architect, spends her days running and playing in her father’s latest project: a grand hotel.Â One day, she opens an elevator cage door and steps in, only to plunge down the shaft to her death. Since then, her little ghost has haunted the hotel elevators, her empty air forcing the doors open and guiding the elevator straight up to floor nine whether or not that was the chosen destination.
This legend from the once-grand Alexandria Hotel in downtown Los Angeles is one of many that include the now decrepit but still tantalizingly mysterious building. Company of Angels takes up residence on the third floor of the building where my mentor and I saw The Ghost Building, a clever new play by Damon Chua who was commissioned to write a play about the hotel itself and its many peculiar stories. Chua focused on one: a mysterious murder of a film director in the 1920s when the hotel was at its prime. Anyone who was anyone at that time stayed there. (We’re talking Charlie Chaplin, Spencer Tracy, Shirley Temple and more.)
I believe in ghosts. I haven’t actually seen one but I’ve had that feeling, you know the one. Once I suspected the hotel’s reputation, I was more than a little eager to explore. We found the theatre and I peaked over a balcony to see what I assume was once a grand ballroom, now aged, with huge open-air windows. Curiosity got the better of me. After saying hello to the playwright, I excused myself to find the restroom. I followed many signs and proceeded to discover two restrooms, both men’s. Right when I was about to just suck it up and use one anyway, a security guard appeared out of nowhere and asked if I needed help finding my way. I gratefully agreed and he warned me, ominously, “You don’t want to get lost in here.”
“Why?” I asked cheerfully. “Is it haunted?”
He just shook his head, seemingly full of the utmost wisdom, and said “There’s some paranormal s*** goin’ down in here.” He then led me across what was I later learned a false floor, with a big open window and three broken-down pews pointing towards it.
After the play, Tom and I explored more of the hotel. As the elevator clicked slowly down the stories, we joked about whether or not the little girl would decide to join us in there, though our laughter contained an air of nervousness. We saw the lobby sign with the list of dead famous guests; next to it was a Charlie Chaplin film being projected onto one wall, two older people watching it, sadly.
And I start to get this feeling, like there is something strange about being inside a place with so much history. I see it as though it is frozen in time with cobwebs growing over it as it begins to consume itself, like a sunken ship under water. The experience almost felt like environmental theatre, a production set outside a normal theatre and in a specific place for a specific purpose.Â Though this wasn’t technically the case, it certainly felt that way being in the very location the play was about. These characters, or rather who they’re based on, could’ve walked on the very ground where we were. The set was even a diorama of sorts, offering the audience a thin window to peer down a long hotel hallway and suite. At any rate, Tom and I agreed that it would not have had such an impact in another location but is that limiting to the play?
I’ll say one thing: I have gone to many places to see theatre, from the very comfortable to the entirely hole-in-the-wall, but never was I so intrigued by a location as the winding, decrepit, historical Alexandria Hotel. I hear it’s haunted, though I’m afraid I didn’t experience anything but a clever, entertaining show. Maybe next time.