PLACAS--A Staged Reading
San Francisco International Arts Festival (SFIAF) and the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) are proud to present a staged reading of a new play in development titled PLACAS, from a bilingual script by Paul S. Flores, directed by Michael John Garces, artistic director of Cornerstone Theatre in Los Angeles, and starring Ric Salinas of Culture Clash in the title role.
PLACAS is the story of three generations of one family who lived through the horrors of the Salvadoran civil war and its aftermath, the subsequent refugee migration to the United States and the resulting formation of immigrant gangs in California. PLACAS focuses on the powerful and symbolic process of tattoo removal as both a narrative device and a form of redemption and transformation for ex-gang members who struggle to overcome many barriers in order to positively redefine themselves in society. Flores spent a year researching and interviewing over 65 gang members, intervention workers and family members in San Francisco, Los Angeles and El Salvador to develop the script.
The term "placas" is barrio slang: a code word for a graffiti tag, police car, a nickname or the tattoos on one's body. In street culture, tattoos signify an individual member's unswerving loyalty to the gang and also serve as a mechanism to create a new identity. Tattoo removal is a complicated and painful treatment, which takes years to conclude successfully. It can be risky for ex-gang members, as their former comrades sometimes see it as betrayal and may target those who seek treatment. The producers and the creative team seek the audience's candid feedback as part of the creative process of developing this new play for the stage. PLACAS will premiere at SFIAF in May 2012 and then be performed in different locations in the United States and Central America.
Synopsis of the Script
After nine years in prison, former gang member Fausto aka Placas (Tats) is released. As a requirement of his conditional immigration amnesty, Fausto must remove all of the tattoos that mark him as a member of the notorious street gang to which he has sworn his allegiance. Wearied by what has been a lifetime of violence, Fausto sees a sliver of hope and accepts the terms of the amnesty. He is determined to reunite his family, which has been traumatized by three decades of war, forced migrations and street crime. He goes to San Francisco to live with his mother, Mama Nieves, a refugee from the Salvadoran civil war, and harbors hopes of re-uniting with his ex-partner, Claudia (a Chicana) and their now teenaged son, Edgar.
As Fausto receives treatment to remove his tattoos, he enters "the laser room" and directly addresses the audience to recount the meaning, memories and stories attached to each tattoo being burned off his skin. A red laser descends upon Fausto. The effect is to reawaken his childhood experiences of the civil war in El Salvador and barrio warfare in San Francisco, the scenes of which are played out on the stage as a series of flashbacks. Each trip to the laser room leads to a deeper understanding of the character.
Fausto tries visiting 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 younger days. It is clear that the reunion will be a difficult one, but Fausto resolves to persevere.
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 home arrest. Fausto attempts to dissuade Edgar from joining the gang and offers to move the family out of the neighborhood. But Edgar runs away from home. Determined to find him, Fausto ventures back onto the streets. As he walks his past reappears and he runs into old enemies and members of his former gang who no longer trust him. He is also confronted by a veteran police detective named Montana who was involved in Fausto's own conviction a decade earlier and who is now on the trail of Edgar for violating the terms of his probation.
Edgar finally returns home to Claudia, but as a newly inducted gang member. Montana enters and, cornering them, tricks Edgar into turning state's evidence against his gang. When Fausto finds out what Edgar has done he knows what will happen if his son stays in San Francisco: "snitches get stitches." But Edgar is ashamed and determined to make up for his mistake by trying to return to his street "family." It is too late; he has already been marked for death. Fausto stands between Edgar and the gang members that would do his son harm. The ensuing confrontation results in a climactic ending that illuminates the high price of redemption from gang membership.
The development of PLACAS for the stage has been funded in part by generous grants from the following foundations: the California Arts Council, the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Puffin Foundation and the San Francisco Arts Commission.
Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts
2868 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA
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