The Trailer Trash Project began in September 2010 when actor Sam Breen was finishing up his final year of an M.F.A. program at California Institute of the Arts. He was looking for a project that could be an outlet from the pressures of class and rehearsals, something that would allow him to use his hands and make something concrete. He considered building a cab on the back of a pick-up truck – ditching monthly rent payments to help keep school loans down. Sam’s mother is a writer and filmmaker who was displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. She had inherited a small amount of money from her mother and proposed that, instead of a truck, Sam restore a vintage trailer and turn it into a family home.
Before moving New Orleans, Lydia worked for the U.N. Refugee agency in Switzerland, making films in refugee camps around the world. She also wanted the trailer to be her
workspace, a mobile studio to record stories of people displaced by hard times. After living so many years abroad, she was hungry for community. She hoped for a healthy, “green” alternative to the toxic FEMA trailers that some of her fellow evacuees were forced to live in.
Lydia and Sam found a partially gutted 1951 Spartan trailer (33’ x 8’) near an airstrip in
Torrance. CalArts allowed Sam to move it to the school’s parking lot, considering the restoration a performance piece about an actor’s life and art.
All artists are, at one time or another, displaced.We’re perpetually confronted with the reality of having to leave home to pursue our craft. Art-making can often distance us from our families. And when we’re away, the feeling of longing inspires us to make more art.” –Sam Breen
As Sam tackled the messy job of tearing out the insulation and walls after class, hisfriends – actors, dancers, musicians and visual artists – began asking if they could use
it as a performance space- something always in short supply at CalArts. It wasn’t long before the trailer became a laboratory for new works, a clubhouse of sorts for artists to experiment across disciplines. Throughout the school year Trailer Trash hosted more than 30 performances inside and immediately outside the trailer, including 20 events at the Arts in the One World Conference at CalArts in January and five performances at the school’s New Works Festival in May. Those experiences convinced Sam that the trailer was a workable performance space. Sam and his fellow friends made plans to use the trailer to stage events in neighborhoods around Los Angeles. The possibility of spontaneous performance – just showing up at a neighborhood park, for instance – was perhaps what attracted them most. Designs for the trailer as green family home were revised to accommodate mobile arts events and exhibits. In September, Sam received a grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation to re-engineer the front windows of the trailer, making the indoor performance space accessible to outdoor audiences.
As 2011 drew to a close, the Occupy protests came to Los Angeles. At a protest rally
in October, Sam and Lydia parked the trailer downtown, along a blocked street in front of City Hall. Marchers passed by and many stopped in for a visit. We told them our story –
why we supported Occupy – and they told us theirs. People of all ages and backgrounds seemed to appreciate what we were doing, which we took it as another sign that we were on the right path. Lydia and Sam reported stories from Occupy for KPFK-FM. Now, as Occupy moves out into new areas, taking on housing foreclosures, Lydia is reporting stories of people who are fighting to save their homes.
The Trailer Trash Project began with the experience of displacement and a need for a home. It was fuelled by a longing for community and evolved with the desire for a mobile space to tell stories – fiction and non-fiction. Trailer Trash will serve a writer, an actor and his friends, and neighbors in Los Angeles, a space to explore together the meaning of home and community in a changing world.
Here’s an introductory video from our Indie GoGo campaign. The campaign is closed but the video is worth viewing. (Secure tax-deductible donations can be made here.)