SF International Arts Festival & the Central American Resource Center present PLACAS: The Most Dangerous Tattoo, A Play by Paul S. Flores; Directed by Michael John Garcés

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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 and hopes to re-unite with his ex-partner, Claudia and their now teenaged son, 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 the reunion will be a difficult one.

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; and on the other hand, how the realities of trying to adapt to living in the U.S. impacted Salvadorans. I was almost killed trying to prevent gang violence in front of my home in the Mission, so it is something I have first hand experience with. I agreed to play Fausto because I'm hoping that by telling his story it will allow audiences, old and young, to experience and learn about the consequences when loved ones become caught up in gang activity.”

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 (playwright/producer) 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 consistently gaining acclaim as a theater artist focused on creating projects with San Francisco as a central theme, including the recent solo show You’re Gonna Cry directed by Brian Freeman, about the victims of gentrification in the Mission District. You’re Gonna Cry helped Paul gain recognition as the San Francisco Weekly 2011 Best Politically Active Hip-Hop Performance Artist, and has been featured at national theaters including The Guadalupe Cultural Center in San Antonio, Free Street Theater in Chicago, and InterAct Theater in Philadelphia. Flores currently manages the Latino Men & Boys Program, funded by the California Endowment, at the Unity Council in East Oakland. He also teaches Hip-Hop Theater and Spoken Word at the University of San Francisco.

Michael John Garcés (Director) 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 which premiered at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and which is touring the U.S. to venues such as The Walker Arts Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He previously collaborated with Bamuthi on the break/s. Michael is the recipient of the Princess Grace Statue and the Alan Schneider Director Award, is on the board of SDC and is an alumnus of New Dramatists.

Ricardo Salinas (Fausto) 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, now in its 27th year and is currently the director of the new Teatro Zinzani show in Seattle. 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. This critically acclaimed performance troupe, as their name implies unsparingly dissects and reveals the many different cultures that clash and merge in the U.S. melting pot. Ricardo graduated with two Bachelor of Arts degrees from San Francisco State University and is the proud father of Daisy (9) and Lola (10). He is also a lifelong Giants fan even though he now resides in Los Angeles.

Cristina Frias (Claudia) is an Actress, Teaching-Artist and recent graduate of the California Institute of the Arts MFA Acting program '11. Her professional theatre work began in San Francisco in the 90's performing with the acclaimed theatre ensembles Campo Santo, Latina Theatre Lab, Culture Clash, Red Rocket Theatre and the San Francisco Mime Troupe with whom she traveled to Bogota, Colombia. Cristina also played Helena in a Midsummer Night's Dream a the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which later inspired a summer Shakespeare Study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. In Los Angeles, Cristina originated the role of Dolores in Luis Alfaro's Black Butterfly at the Mark Taper Forum and toured to the Kennedy Center and Smithsonian. Recent theatrical credits include playing the Gypsy and Lady Mulligan in Tennessee William's Camino Real at the Theatre@Boston Court and Nana Coatlicue in a CalArts-Getty Villa production of Octavio Paz's Piedra de Sol. Cristina has also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cornerstone Theatre, Watt's Village Theatre, TeAda, Casa 0101, Will & Co. and Teatro Frida Kahlo. Solo work includes Home at the first Centre by Centre International Theatre Festival in Kigali, Rwanda, All Aboard - a Highways Emerging Artist Commission and Chican-Inca from East LA to Machu Picchu in Edinburgh, Paris and New York. Cristina received her B.A. in Sociology at U.C. Berkeley where she first studied Chicano Teatro with the remarkable Cherrie Moraga. It is a profound honor to return to the bay area where my artistic spirit first took flight.

Ricky Saenz (Edgar) is a first generation immigrant and a native San Franciscan. He holds his roots tight while embracing the Bay Area. It is an absolute honor for him to collaborate and share the stage with Paul Flores and Ricardo Salinas. Looking to make an impact on our community, his eyes are fixed and arms wide open.

Sarita Ocón (Liz, Lady Gangster) is a professional actor, visual artist and educator. Theatrical credits include collaborations with Cal Shakes, ShadowLight Productions, Teatro Visión, the Hybrid Performance Experiment Collective (HyPE) performing guerrilla theatre on BART trains and public spaces, the African American Shakespeare Company, Bindlestiff Studio, BRAVA Theater, City Solo, Galería de la Raza, Pacifica Spindrift Players, The Playwrights Foundation, San Francisco Summer Theater Festival, Bay Area Children's Theatre Company, Stanford Summer Theater, and The Public Theater NY / Stanford Drama. Sarita received her BA in Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity from Stanford University. Thank you for supporting your local arts organizations!

Juan C. Parada (Orozco, Nelson) recently completed an MFA in Acting at California Institute of the Arts. His theatrical projects include: Xavi in Timboctou directed by Martin Acosta (co-production of CalArts and The University of Guadalajara, Mexico); Gayev in Cherry Jam (Theatre Movement Bazaar’s adaptation of The Cherry Orchard at CalArts); 3 Truths (Cornerstone Theatre Company), Manazar in Culture Clash’s Chavez Ravine (CSULB). Juan is currently directing a creacion colectiva called 13:20 in Los Angeles (http://www.1320teatro.wordpress.com) and will be joining the Oregon Shakespeare Festival company in the 2011 season. Juan received his BA in Acting and Directing at California State University at Long Beach (CSULB).

Luis ‘Xago’ Juárez (Largo, O.G.) has been dedicated to teatro since attending El Teatro Campesino in the summer of 1990 and continues producing work for his community, starting with his solo kids show based on the Mayan concept of zero titled Zero. Xago co-founded a community-based performance troupe called Los Illegals Comedy Clica with an emphasis on at-risk populations, including juvenile detention centers, public schools and universities. In 1997 Xago helped found Baktun 12, a hip-hop theater crew from East Salinas, performed in multiple productions with ETC and Los del Pueblo Actors Lab in San José and in 2003 he helped form headRush, a Bay Area-based spoken word teatro troupe with an emphasis in popular education. In 2008 he completed his M.A./M.F.A in Creative Inquiry from the California Institute of Integral Studies of San Francisco. Xago continues to contribute his talents throughout the Bay Area and teaches Public Address and Xikano Theater at San Jose State University.

About the Producers
SFIAF presents and produces innovative projects that are focused on increasing human awareness and understanding. SFIAF’s curatorial priorities include:

  •     Developing collaborative projects led by Bay Area artists working with their national and international peers
  •     Presenting Bay Area artists as part of shared programs with artists from other countries
  •     Presenting world-class international artists whose work is rarely seen in the United States

SFIAF develops long-term relationships with Bay Area artists. The goal is to create cross-cultural performances that will expand their artistic horizons (and that of their audiences), develop stronger community-to-community connections, result in an extended shelf-life of the work and yield subsequent earned-income opportunities for local artists—with the understanding that a lot of those opportunities may happen somewhere else.

SFIAF is dedicated to coordinating the shared resources of multiple organizations to reach mutually beneficial goals. The organization’s core values are based on principals of cultural and economic equity. In addition to working with larger institutions SFIAF places a high priority on the participation of culturally diverse and smaller entities. Activating and supporting relationships between such eclectic consortia and individual artists is a key component of SFIAF.

Established in 1986, CARECEN is an immigrant family wellness and empowerment center committed to providing needed services while building community leadership to effect long-term change. Many of the organization’s clients are recent, undocumented immigrants who are surviving, and often raising families, on incomes under the federal poverty line. Last year alone, CARECEN directly reached over 12,000 individuals. CARECEN’s programs include the Second Chance Tattoo Removal Program, an initiative to help gang members leave gangs; the program removes ex-gang members’ tattoos, as well as providing many other services.

MCCLA was established in 1977 by artists and community activists with a shared vision to promote, preserve and develop the Latino cultural arts that reflect the living tradition and experiences of the Chicano, Mexican, Central and South American, and Caribbean people. MCCLA makes the arts accessible as an essential element to the community's development and well-being. For the last 34 years the organization has remained committed to this mission and vision. Staff members manage numerous performance and visual arts programs in multiple genres and disciplines. The two largest events being the annual Day of the Dead Exhibition and Celebrations in November and the organization’s Carnaval programming, which culminates on the Memorial Day Bank Holiday weekend.


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Andrew Wood
San Francisco International Arts Festival
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