Annexing the Palisades

The following is an excerpt from Fragments, the new magazine from Emor.

by Alex Goldberg

We are taught to “never forget” the horrors of the Holocaust and to vigilantly prevent such occurrences from happening again, to Jews or to anyone. We remember a world united to strike down the fascist Axis powers. But we often forget or overlook those fascists at home in the U.S., living and working virtually undetected in the shadows and gray areas amidst the “coastal elite,” who would have done anything to prevent true freedom by preserving white nationalist, antisemitic, and racist policies. One of those overlooked places is the Murphy Ranch, in the leafy liberal enclave of Pacific Palisades in sunny Los Angeles, California.

During the pandemic, The Antaeus Theatre Company of Glendale commissioned some members of their writers lab to create radio plays inspired by different Los Angeles County zip codes. I pitched an idea about the ranch, built in the 1930s by Winona and Norman Stephens. The ranch, and its owners, are prime examples of those who quietly supported fascism and white supremacy.

These radio plays were recorded and produced in isolation, each actor receiving recording equipment at their home along with instructions to set up their own home studio.  The play was sagely directed by Ann Noble  (only 2 hours’ rehearsal!) and stars an incredible cast of theater, film, and TV veterans: Adrian LaTourelle, Nike Doukas, and Antaeus co-founder and three-time TONY nominee Harry Groener. Sound Designer Jeff Gardner created a sublime audio environment, placing the listener squarely on the property amidst these characters and their secrets.

The Murphy Ranch still exists today, now a crumbling group of concrete structures, all heavily graffiti-tagged and frequently posted on Instagram by adventure-seeking hikers (the property is technically closed but still accessible). It exists not only as a physical structure but a reminder that the forces of hate are always out there, sometimes dormant, but always present. I hope this play serves as a call to action to remain vigilant and keep an eye out for those among us (in every neighborhood) who continually threaten freedom.

Alex Goldberg is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and director. He wrote and directed the feature film Closure, winning Best Feature at two film festivals and Audience Choice award at two other fests. 16 of his plays have been produced across the country and around the world. Most notably, It is Done, which has been published by Original Works Publishing and produced in New York City, Los Angeles, and Raleigh NC.  He lives in Burbank, CA with his wife, actress Catia Ojeda, and their two sons.