San Francisco International Arts Festival & the Central American Resource Center Present a Staged Reading of PLACAS. Written by Paul S. Flores • Directed by Michael John Garces • Starring Ricardo Salinas

Monday February 21, 2011, 7:00pm

Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts • 2868 Mission Street, San Francisco (btw. 24th & 25th)

Tickets: Free or by donation at the door


For more information: 415-399-9554

The 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 (see biographies, below).

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.

Lead Artist Biographies

PAUL S. FLORES (Playwright) is a published playwright and nationally prominent spoken word performer. Raised on the Tijuana/San Diego border, issues of immigration, border experience, and Latino identity are central to his work. A theater artist specializing in hip-hop and bilingual performance, Flores co-wrote De/Cipher (2001) and No Man’s Land (2002) with Marc Bamuthi Joseph, The Fruitvale Project (2003) with Elia Arce and Fear of a Brown Planet (2005) directed by Tony Garcia. His first international project REPRESENTA! (2007) is a bilingual hip-hop theater project co-commissioned by SFIAF and La Peña Cultural Center, written and performed with Cuban rapper Julio Cardenas and directed by Danny Hoch. REPRESENTA! toured 17 cities including GALA Hispanic Theater DC, NJPAC, Lehigh University PA and Mexico City’s Teatro Hugo Arguelles. Flores has twice been awarded the National Performance Network Creation Fund and the Center for Cultural Innovation Individual Artist Grant.

Flores’ work as both a nationally recognized youth development specialist and a community-based artist focuses on identifying and cultivating the inherent strengths that youth possess to be both mirror and transformative power in society. As a co-founder of Youth Speaks, Flores introduced spoken word to hundreds of thousands of youth all over the country, from native reservations, to public schools to juvenile halls, and helped develop the national platform for young people to build peer relationships and strategize toward a better future through the Brave New Voices: National Teen Poetry Slam, now seen on HBO. As a writer/performer Flores projects have addressed issues that directly affect the Latino community: from illegal immigration to Hip-Hop in communist Cuba, deconstruction of macho identity to gentrification of the Mission District. Flores chooses to create bilingual work to reflect the constant immigration the Latino community endures, as well a desire to develop new arts audiences out of new community members. He has also generated more influence over the last four years as a theater professor at the University of San Francisco, where he instructs one of the only university classes in the nation that focuses on the themes and practices of Hip-Hop Theater and Spoken Word.

MICHAEL JOHN GARCES, (Director/Dramaturge) 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, most recently, the break/s by Marc Bamuthi Joseph which co-premiered at the Humana Festival (Actors Theatre of Louisville) and the Walker Art Center, and which is touring the U.S. Theatres at which he has directed include Hartford Stage Company, New York Theatre Workshop, The Children’s Theatre, Woolly Mammoth, Second Stage, Huntington Theatre Company, Florida Stage, Yale Repertory Theatre, The Cherry Lane, The Atlantic Theater Company, Repertorio Español and The Huntington Theatre. He has twice been in residence with a consensus-run collective, Sna Jtz’ibajom, in the highlands of Chiapas Mexico, collaborating in the creation of community-engaged work with the members of the Mayan community. Michael is on the executive board of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. His full-length plays include points of departure (INTAR Hispanic American Arts Center) and Acts of Mercy (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater); short plays include tostitos, (Ensemble Studio Theatre Marathon of One-Act Plays) on edge and the ride (Humana, “The Open Road Anthology”), audiovideo (The Directors Project) and sandlot ball (Mile Square). His solo performance piece, agua ardiente, ran Off-Broadway at The American Place Theatre, and he performed in and wrote for “The Borges Project,” which was presented at the Cultural Center of the Philippines for the 31st World Congress of the International Theatre Institute.

RICARDO SALINAS (Actor, 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 26th year. As a theater artist, writer, social commentator and activist, Ric has created searing satire and biting drama for the national stage. Along with his Culture Clash collaborators Montoya and 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 (8) and Lola (9). He is also a lifelong Giants fan even though he now resides in Los Angeles.


Central American Resource Center, San Francisco. Established in 1986, CARECEN is an immigrant family wellness and empowerment organization providing crucial services and building community leadership to create long-term change in the Latino and immigrant communities in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Many of the organization’s clients are recent 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. Among its programs is a Tattoo Removal Program that helps young people leave gangs. The organization’s total operating budget is $1.4 million.

CARECEN strives to create a vibrant and thriving Latino and immigrant community that fully exercises its rights, confidently participates in the wider society, and proudly celebrates its unique cultural traditions.

Respect, perseverance, integrity, trust, excellence and a commitment to social justice are CARECEN’s core values. It is committed to living by these in every aspect of its work: in relating to its clients, to its staff and volunteers, and to its community. By following these values it fulfills its mission to provide the highest quality services to change the lives of the immigrant families in its community.

San Francisco International Arts Festival. SFIAF has developed a unique structure within the non-profit performing arts field that speaks to many of the critical issues the industry currently faces. As economies contract and it is becoming clear that the ways we have conducted business in the past have to change, SFIAF has adapted an approach to working with artists that blurs and sometimes eradicates the traditional distinctions between presenter, producer, agent and manager. It is a non-linear method that allows the organization to undertake projects with each artist in a manner that directs the organization’s resources and expertise to the areas where they most need assistance. This in turn allows the artist to best realize their vision for a project and its impact on community, and that simultaneously achieves efficiencies in production and administration.

Through this evolution SFIAF has begun to transcend its original mission, which is to celebrate the arts through an annual gathering that brings together a world community of artists and audiences through presenting innovative, collaborative projects that are focused on increasing human awareness, understanding and enlightenment.

Rather than building a series that is the responsibility of a single producer SFIAF is dedicated to utilizing the shared resources of multiple organizations to reach mutually beneficial goals. SFIAF’s core values are based on principals of cultural and economic equity. Therefore, in addition to working with larger institutions, SFIAF places a high priority on the participation of culturally diverse and smaller organizations. Activating and supporting relationships between such eclectic enterprises and individual artists is a key component of SFIAF. Working in this fashion each Festival takes up to three years to conceive, plan and implement.