PLACAS with Ric Salinas to Run 4/3-6 at Los Angeles Theatre Center

A Salvadoran immigrant tries to reclaim his family while letting go of his gangbanger past. Culture Clash's Ric Salinas heads the cast when San Francisco International Arts Festival brings the national tour of PLACAS: The Most Dangerous Tattoo by Paul S. Flores to the Los Angeles Theatre Center for four performances only, April 3-April 6.

Developed with and directed by Cornerstone Theatre Company artistic director Michael John Garcés, PLACAS (barrio slang for body tattoos) is a bilingual tale of fathers and sons, transformation and redemption that illuminates one man's determination to reunite his family after surviving civil war in El Salvador, immigration, deportation, prison and street violence.

As part of the writing process, Flores interviewed over 100 gang members, parents and intervention workers in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and El Salvador. Ric Salinas, a founding member of the critically acclaimed performance group Culture Clash, was approached to play Fausto Carbajal, a role loosely based on the experiences of ex-gang member Alex Sanchez, founder of the Los Angeles non-profit Homies Unidos.

In street culture, placas signify an individual member's unswerving loyalty to the gang and also serve as a mechanism to create a new identity. Using Fausto's tattoos as a metaphor, PLACAS explores the process of tattoo removal as one possible path for former gang members to move forward. Laser tattoo removal is a complicated and painful procedure that can take years to conclude, and it is especially risky for ex-gang members because 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.

"Living in San Francisco in the eighties, the time when the war sent many refugees to places like San Francisco's Mission District, I saw first hand how this wave of immigrants impacted the neighborhoods and how the realities of trying to adapt to living in the U.S. impacted Salvadorans," said Salinas, who was born in El Salvador. "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."

"What a gang member has to go through to be human is huge," Flores explained in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. "There's a mangled sense of identity, of life outside the gang clashing with the code of the gang. How do you recover from that? How does a man like Fausto recover his humanity after a lifetime of war and violence?"

PLACAS was first produced at the San Francisco International Arts Festival in 2012. The L.A. production is part of a national tour that includes performances in Washington DC; Oakland, CA; Denver, CO; and New York City. Co-commissioned by four nationally respected Latino arts organizations (MACLA, Su Teatro, Pregones Theatre Company and GALA Theatre) through the National Performance Network, 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. Sponsors include Homie Unidos, Homeboy Industries, National Compadres Network and The California Endowment.

In addition to Salinas, the PLACAS ensemble includes Fidel Gomez, Luis "Xago" Juárez, Xavi Moreno, Sarita Ocón and Carolyn Zeller. Set design for PLACAS is by Tanya Orellana; lighting design is by Tom Ontiveros; costume design is by Keiko Carreiro; fight choreography is by Edgar Landa; technical director/production manager is Marissa Marshall; assistant director is Jeffery Glaser; and the production stage manager is Alyssa Escalante. PLACAS is produced by Paul S. Flores and Andrew Wood and presented by the San Francisco International Arts Festival.

A well known poet, Paul Flores has gained 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. Named San Francisco Weekly's 2011 Best Politically Active Hip-Hop Performance Artist, his work 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, and teaches Hip-Hop Theater and Spoken Word at the University of San Francisco.

Michael John Garcés is the artistic director of Cornerstone Theater Company, a community-engaged ensemble based in Los Angeles. Michael wrote the first play of Cornerstone's Justice Cycle, Los Illegals, which was subsequently produced in Phoenix, Arizona by Teatro Bravo. For the company he has also directed Someday by Julie Marie Myatt, attraction by Page Leong, and The Falls by Jeffrey Hatcher (at the Guthrie Theater). Other directing credits include the break/s by Marc Bamuthi Joseph which co-premiered at the Humana Festival (Actors Theatre of Louisville) and the Walker Art Center and red, black and GREEN: a blues, also by Joseph, which premiered at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and is currently touring throughout the country.

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, 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.

The San Francisco International Arts Festival 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, and presenting world-class international artists whose work is rarely seen in the United States.

PLACAS: The Most Dangerous Tattoo runs Thursday, April 3 at 8 p.m. (ticket includes post-performance Q & A with the artists); Friday, April 4 at 8 p.m. (ticket includes 6 p.m. pre-performance conversation "Healing From Violence" with Father Greg Boyle, Jerry Tello and Alex Sanchez); Saturday, April 5 at 8 p.m. (ticket includes post-performance party and reception with cast and crew); and Sunday, April 6 at 3 p.m. (ticket includes 1 p.m. pre-performance: Youth Voice for Change featuring youth presentations from Boyle Heights). General admission is $15-$30 with advance purchase and $20-$40 at the door. The Los Angeles Theatre Center is a facility of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and is operated by the Latino Theater Company. The LATC is located at 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (866) 811-4111 or go to

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