The Climb in Culver City and Emma in Long Beach 

Maliaka Mitchell and Ronnie Chism share their true stories of losing their sight in The Climb at The Blue Door in Culver City. (Photo courtesy of ArtsUp! LA.)

ArtsUp! LA is presenting The Climb, the most personal story shared Theatre by the Blind, featuring two actors who lost their vision in their 20s. Combining original rap, poetry, spoken word, and classic songs, Ronnie Chism and Maliaka Mitchell share true stories about their blindness and their journey to find a greater sense of self. Taking the audience along as they share their most vulnerable moments, these brave performers answer questions most people might be curious about, but never ask directly about living in the world without sight.

This production will be Ronnie Chism’s fourth with Theatre the Blind, offering him the opportunity to tell the story of the trials and triumphs he faced when going blind in his young adult life. Maliaka Mitchell, who lost her vision due to diabetic retinopathy, is appearing in her fifth production with Theatre by the Blind, and is currently working on a Netflix project that will be premiering next year. Both thank the Theatre by the Blind program for allowing them new opportunities to explore artistic avenues for self-expression. 

“The Climb is the courageous and heart-wrenching personal journey of these two actors and their experiences with going blind. Sharing first-hand what it’s like to lose your vision, it’s honest and vulnerable, and through their poetic and musical storytelling, you not only get a much better sense of who they are and the challenges they’ve overcome, but also reflect on who you are and the things you may be taking for granted,” explains ArtsUP! LA’s Co-Founder and Executive Director, Bryan Caldwell.

“We all battle with obstacles in our lives, but the blind actors and characters in this production face challenges steeper than most,” shares director Greg Shane. “It is the experience and living truth of the actors that fill these characters’ stories with physical and emotional authenticity.” 

The Climb runs two weekends December 1-9, 2023 at ArtsUp! LA’s theater, The Blue Door, located at 9617 Venice Blvd. Culver City, 90232, on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. Single tickets are $15, available online at or at The Blue Door’s box office prior to each performance. ArtsUp! LA is excited to also provide an audio description for the Visually Impaired community for the Friday December 8 performance and an ASL interpreter for the Saturday December 9 performance.

Mr. Elton (Michael Hovance) confesses his love for Emma (Galilea La Salvia) even though she attempted to match him with someone else. (Photo credit: Mike Hardy)

Jane Austen’s Emma, adapted by Michael Bloom, is now playing on the Mainstage at Long Beach Playhouse through December 2, 2023, directed by Lauren Velasco. In this highly theatrical adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s greatest novels, Emma Woodhouse, the notorious “matchmaker of Highbury,” pledges to never marry, choosing her independence over marriage and motherhood. But as she plans to have her newest “project” Harriet Smith marry the eligible vicar Mr. Elton, her friend Mr. Knightley warns Emma to give up her matchmaking ways. But for what reason?

The course of true love never runs smooth, does it? For when the dashing Frank Churchill arrives in town, Emma finds that she could be falling for him. Then again, perhaps not. And to her horror, Emma learns that Mr. Elton is more interested in her than Harriet. And meanwhile, Harriet has fallen for Mr. Knightley who harbors secret feelings for Emma. And thus, hilarity ensures as the audience tries to figure out who will finally match with whom in this charming romantic comedy about the trouble of getting involved in other peoples’ love lives without paying attention to your own! The storyline certainly matches many in today’s soap operas where love triangles keep viewers guessing as to just how things will finally work out for all involved.

Featured in the cast are the luminescent Galilea La Salvia as the matchmaker Emma Woodhouse whose every smile and aside to the audience pulls you into her romantic schemes; Mark Wickham as her clueless, always-tired and sickly father Mr. Woodhouse; Andrew Justus as handsome George Knightley who must fight an uphill battle to reach Emma’s heart; Andrea Stradling as Emma’s former governess whose marriage to Mr. Weston (Jonah Goger) begins the show and introduces us to Emma’s distain for the institution; scene-stealer Michael Hovance as the man-about-town Philip Elton whose entertaining, foppish mannerisms create oodles of laughter; Vita Muccia as the naïve and easily brokenhearted Miss Harriet Smith; Dylan Boggan as Harriet’s true love Robert Martin who Emma convinces her not to marry; Yvonne Robertson as everyone’s well-meaning older neighbor Miss Bates; Amara Phelps as Jane Fairfax who accepts a position as a governess prior to Frank Churchill (Giovanni Navarro) falling in love with her, even as Emma is falling for him; and Jessica Plotin as Philip’s annoying wife Augusta Elton, whose ear-shattering, pain-inducing, high-pitched voice had many in the audience covering their ears. 

Other stars of the production are the perfectly designed and fitted costumes by Christina Bayer which reflect the 1814-1815 timeframe to a tee, and the set designed by Greg and Donna Fritsche to reflect director Lauren Velasco’s desire to bring Emma to life in “the dollhouse style to emphasize her coming of age story in which she believes she knows what is best for everyone. (For) just as a child orchestrates scenarios with their dolls, Emma feels compelled to manipulate other’s lives.”

With just two performances remaining this weekend at 8 p.m. on Friday, December 1 and Saturday, December 2, be sure to order your tickets ASAP at Run time is 2 and a half hours including at 15-minute intermission. Masks are not required but are available for patrons. Free onsite parking.