The Ballad of Bimini Baths
NoteThis bundle consisting of three books is sold at 20% off the regular price for its individual titles.
Tom Jacobson brings his formal inventiveness and vivid imagination to THE BALLAD OF BIMINI BATHS, a trilogy of plays following the ripples of a hushed-up crime across 32 years of Los Angeles history. Inspired by real people and events, the stories center on the celebrated/notorious bath house that once stood on Bimini Place to illuminate larger themes of race and identity, individual failings and communal reconciliation in the City of Angels.
- About the Author(s)
THE BALLAD OF BIMINI BATHS
“Water is a vivid metaphor in Los Angeles. We live in a desert beside an ocean, an existence of simultaneous want and plenitude. Another, lesser-known water source inspires The Ballad of Bimini Baths, a trio of plays by local playwright Tom Jacobson. Bimini was a popular swimming and spa complex at the site of hot springs one block east of Vermont Avenue between 1st and 2nd streets, operated from 1903 to 1951. Jacobson makes this the nexus of a wide-ranging tale that pulls together events in LA history, some of which occurred at the baths, others not. His theme is sins in need of being washed away — racism as well as other moral failings. The intriguing result is being staged by three small theaters, all running different plays ranging from 55 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. The final play is an inspiring tale of people working together to try to redeem the past and re-chart the future. The first two, though, take on disturbing topics that can be difficult to watch and aren’t easily resolved in brief, short-story-like formats … Jacobson’s fascination with mercurial/chameleonic human nature — seen in such plays as TAINTED BLOOD, OUROBOROS and THE TWENTIETH-CENTURY WAY — takes daring forms in these first two Bimini plays. The introductory piece, PLUNGE, introduces [Everett C] Maxwell [a historical figure: the first art curator at what was initially known as the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art] on a night of triumph in his curatorial career in 1916 … he is brainy, inquisitive and flirtatious as he encounters a priest in a quiet corner at a garden party. Sensing a shared attraction, Maxwell suggests they retire to a private spa room at Bimini, but after he’s eagerly swapped his tuxedo for bathing togs, a chill sets in as the priest hints at a dark event. Here is another historical figure, Father EV Reynolds, who disappeared after the 1908 drowning of a 15-year-old boy at the baths. Reynolds was suspected of having propositioned the youth … his calm, ministerial demeanor turns cold and slippery … a taut sense of mystery … Reynolds’ identity eventually comes into doubt, and reality keeps shifting. As dark memories replay, the actors slip into character as the young victims. After witnessing what’s perpetrated on the boys, the audience feels in need of cleansing — but that relief is withheld.” —Daryl H Miller, Los Angeles Times
PART I: PLUNGE
“Long-buried secrets of power, passion, and perversion propel PLUNGE, the first installment of Tom Jacobson’s concurrently running Bimini Baths Trilogy, as provocative a World Premiere play as you’re likely to experience any time soon.” —Stage Scene LA
“Jacobson has created an intricate puzzle of a play, a matryoshka doll where one truth lays nested within another, only to find another nested within that.” —Stage Raw
PART II: TAR
“It’s Los Angeles in 1939. Count Basie and his band are scheduled to play at the Palomar Ballroom — one of the first African-American groups to perform there. Next door, at Bimini Baths, two employees, African-American Amen and Mexican-American Zenobio have been given the onerous job of cleaning up the tar-covered body of a drunken white man who has tumbled into the La Brea Tar Pits. Playwright Tom Jacobson has laid the groundwork for a host of racial conflicts before a word is spoken. As the two men scrub the tar-covered figure down with kerosene, they discuss ways of getting in to see Basie at the Palomar, which does not admit blacks or Latinos. Slowly the man, whose name is Donald, regains consciousness. A xenophobic German-American, he immediately proves intransigent. Amen, a former Pullman Porter turned actor, enjoys baiting him, whereas Zenobio tries to play peacemaker. Eventually they learn that Donald’s wife has died that very day, and their suspicions are aroused. Did he kill his wife? Was she unfaithful? And was it with a black man? When Zenobio finds a shocking piece of evidence in the pocket of Donald’s tar-covered pants, these suspicions seem confirmed. And as the conflicts mount, there may be dark secrets in Amen’s past as well.” —Neal Weaver, Stage Raw
PART III: MEXICAN DAY
“Only a playwright as daring and talented as Tom Jacobson could imagine and achieve a project as mind-blowing as his fascinating, informative Ballad of Bimini Baths trilogy. MEXICAN DAY is the most accessibly crowd-pleasing of the bunch.” —Stage Scene LA
“Highly effective. This is a thought-provoking and powerful play … humor alternates with seriousness.” —LA Splash
“Tom Jacobson’s insightful script intimately, intricately interweaves ethnicity, class, sexuality and more in his story depicting a landmark Civil Rights struggle in late 1940s Los Angeles.” —Hollywood Progressive