produced & photographed by DANIELLE CHARBONNEAU

Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD) is celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. LAPD is a multi-disciplinary performance company comprised of primarily homeless and formerly homeless members of the Skid Row Community. LAPD was the first performance group of its kind in the nation and is internationally recognized for its raw, socially-conscious performances.

LAPD not only provides an outlet for individuals to grow in a supportive community, but offers the community a canvas on which to tell the narrative of Skid Row. The group is as much about activism, as it is about acting. By giving its community a voice, LAPD hopes to shape the social and political forces that affect Skid Row.

In celebration of LAPD’s anniversary, the group will bring back its award-winning performance of Read Beard/Read Beard, based on the Akira Kurosawa film. The story takes place in Feudal era Japan at a rural clinic for the indigent and poor. Red Beard, the head doctor, mentors an arrogant young doctor, teaching him lessons about people, compassion, and the nature of suffering and poverty. 

While the film is now 50 years old and takes place long before that, Red Beard’s themes transcend time. While it shows the cyclical nature of poverty, despair and suffering, it also shows the healing power of human compassion.

In this Ampersand feature, reporter Danielle Charbonneau discusses the mission of LAPD and the Red Beard/Red Beard performance with LAPD’s artistic director, John Malpede, associate director Henriëtte Brouwers, and actor Anthony Williams, who plays Red Beard. 


As a part of USC’s Visions & Voices, Red Beard/Red Beard will be performed at USC’s McClintock Theater tonight at 7pm. This performance is free to the public, but you must first RSVP here. If you’re unable to attend that performance, Red Beard/Red Beard will also be featured at HIGHWAYS Performance Space in Santa Monica on January 23rd & 24th at 8:30pm. Tickets to the performances at HIGHWAYS are $20 and can be purchased here. Visit for more information.