The Pico Heights neighborhood is now one of the many arenas in Los Angeles for rampant real estate speculation, steep rent hikes and evictions. Image credit: B.W. Pierce, Library of Congress

The Biography of a Home

Marike Splint, Theater, Film and Television, UCLA

The Biography of a Home is a multimedia theatre performance by theater maker Marike Splint, exploring the notion of home through the history of a century-old house and its residents in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The impulse for the creation for this new work starts with a personal anecdote. Marike lives in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Pico-Union in a 114-year-old house, which was recently sold to a contractor. This new landlord has been aggressively harassing especially some of the undocumented tenants, in an attempt to vacate the units so he can redevelop.

Fueled by these events, Marike joined the LA Tenants Union and started digging into the history of the house. It became compelling to fantasize about the events that the house has witnessed, from being surrounded by grassland, to the first immigrants moving in, to the people living out of their car in the street today. The biography of this home tells a larger story: at the intersection of this one address in Los Angeles, issues of immigration, gentrification and poverty come together. It tells a story of an immigrant city, of urban planning politics, but at it deepest core it begs us to ask the question: what is home? What is home to the first residents of this house a 100 years ago, what is home to the undocumented tenants who risked their lives to live here? What is home to the new landlord who wants to turn this parcel into condos? And how come so many inhabitants of our city do not have control over their own living situation?

The performance asks these questions through researching the history of the residents that have lived at this address over the course of a century, while connecting it to larger social and political issues at different times, including the present, in Los Angeles. It’s the portrait of a city filtered through the specific history of one house – one that may be demolished in the near future.