Who: Flores, Garcés, Salinas
What: PLACAS: The Most Dangerous Tattoo
When: Thurs-Sun, September 6-9 & Thurs-Sun Sept. 13-16, 2012, 8pm; Sunday’s 3pm matinee
Where: Lorraine Hansberry Theater, 450 Post Street, San Francisco, CA
Tickets: $15 - $40 reserved seating
Box-Office: http://www.sfiaf.org, 1-800-838-3006 or 415-345-3980
San Francisco International Arts Festival (SFIAF), Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) and the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts (MCCLA) present playwright Paul S. Flores’ premiere of PLACAS, directed by Michael John Garcés of Cornerstone Theater and starring Ricardo Salinas of Culture Clash. PLACAS will premiere at the Lorraine Hansberry Theater in San Francisco’s Union Square, September 6 – 16, 2012.
PLACAS (barrio slang: a code word for graffiti tags, a nickname or body tattoos) is a stage drama that focuses on the human and local community ramifications of geo-political events. Set in today’s San Francisco it looks at the impacts that U.S. foreign policy and the Salvadoran Civil War of the 1980’s still has on migrant and refugee communities in the United States and throughout the Americas. In particular it addresses the issue of Central American street gangs that are a bi-product of the war and breaking the cycles of violence that both the gangs and government agencies perpetuate. PLACAS focuses on intergenerational relationships between young men and their fathers and uses the metaphor of tattoo removal as a way of moving forward and as a path to a possible solution.
PLACAS stars Ric Salinas as Salvadoran immigrant Fausto Carbajal, a now middle-aged ex-gang member recently released after nine years in prison. As a requirement of his parole Fausto must remove the tattoos that mark him as a member of his gang. Wearied by what has been a lifetime of violence, he accepts the terms. He is determined to reunite his family, traumatized by three decades of war, forced migrations and street crime. He returns to San Francisco to live with his mother, a war refugee, and hopes to re-unite with his ex-partner, Claudia and their now teenaged son, Edgar. Fausto visits Claudia and Edgar. But Edgar, who has not seen his father for most of his life, resents Fausto and displays disturbing character traits that remind Fausto of himself in his youth.
It is clear that the reunion will be difficult. Fausto realizes that his son is in danger of being initiated into a rival gang when Edgar is arrested for carrying a gun to school and placed on probationary house arrest. Fausto attempts to persuade Edgar against joining the gang and offers to move the family out of the neighborhood, but Edgar runs away. Fausto must find Edgar before the police do. His process of transformation is both physically and emotionally painful, but can he save himself, and is it enough and in time to save his son?
In street culture tattoos (placas) signify an individual member’s unswerving loyalty to the gang and also serve as a mechanism to create a new identity. Laser tattoo removal is a complicated and painful procedure that can take years to conclude. It is especially risky for ex-gang members, as their former comrades see it as betrayal and may target those who seek treatment. Partly because of this risk, gang prevention workers, police, probation officers, judges and case workers see tattoo removal as a legitimate step gang members can take toward reintegrating into civil society.
The current multicultural fascination with tattoos offers the opportunity for the story to become more universal by focusing on how tattoos lend themselves to identity development and representation — even if at times they represent a mangled identity.
PLACAS was developed as a pro-active community response to the issue of transnational gang violence, presenting positive elements of Central American culture in the context of a hostile anti-immigrant political environment.
Flores began researching PLACAS in 2009, interviewing 65 gang members, parents and intervention workers in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and in El Salvador. Ric Salinas, a founding member of the critically acclaimed performance group Culture Clash, was approached to play Fausto, a role loosely based on a real person named Alex Sanchez. Now in his 40s, Sanchez is an ex-gang member who founded the non-profit Homies Unidos and who worked closely with Flores to set up interviews with gang members during his research. With Garces directing, PLACAS features some of the country’s leading exponents of Latino theatre.
Ric Salinas was born in El Salvador and grew up in San Francisco's Mission District where he was once the innocent victim in a near-fatal gang shooting. For that and several other reasons, his involvement in the play is a personal one, “Living in San Francisco in the eighties, the time when the war sent many refugees to the United States in general, and to places like San Francisco's Mission District in particular, I saw first hand how this wave of immigrants impacted the neighborhoods;
Four nationally respected Latino arts organizations (MACLA, Su Teatro, Pregones Theatre Company and GALA Theatre) are co-commissioning the play through the National Performance Network with CARECEN. Funding has also been received from National Endowment for the Arts, San Francisco Arts Commission, Columbia Foundation, Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, California Arts Council and Puffin Foundation.
Paul Flores was invited to head the project because of his experience in bilingual Latino performance and widely recognized work as a community based artist, his experience mentoring youth and juvenile offenders—including gang members, the politics of borders, immigration and a myriad other issues that PLACAS addresses. A well known poet, Flores has been featured at national theaters including The Guadalupe Cultural Center in San Antonio, Free Street Theater in Chicago, and InterAct Theater in Philadelphia.
Michael John Garcés is the Artistic Director of Cornerstone Theater Company, a community-engaged ensemble based in Los Angeles, where he most recently directed Café Vida by Lisa Loomer, created in collaboration with Homeboy Industries and Homegirl Café, and where he has worked with many other writers such as Naomi Iizuka, Tom Jacobson and Julie Marie Myatt. Michael also wrote Los Illegals, the first play of Cornerstone's Justice Cycle. Other directing credits include, most recently, red, black and GREEN: a blues by Marc Bamuthi Joseph.
Ricardo Salinas is a Salvadoran immigrant who from the age of 12 grew up in San Francisco's Mission district. He is an original member of Culture Clash. As a theater artist, writer, social commentator and activist, Ricardo has created searing satire and biting drama for the national stage. Along with his Culture Clash collaborators Richard Montoya and Herbert Siguenza, he has written over a dozen plays and performed over 5,000 shows on stages across the United States. What started as a weekend experiment on Cinco de Mayo 1984 at Galeria de La Raza, has turned into a lifelong commitment of forging a unique role and voice on the national stage. Expanding the boundaries of Latino/Chicano Theater and their comedy troupe status, Culture Clash continues to raise the bar of American theater bringing new and untraditional audiences to wherever they perform