High School Zoot Suit

Concord High first in US to stage the play

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: May 5, 2007

High School Zoot Suit

It is the secret fantasy of every Vato living in or out of the Pachucada to put on the Zoot Suit and play the myth... And that is exactly what is going to happen on May 3-5 and 11-13 at Concord High School as the school is the first in the United States to stage Luis Valdez's culturally historic play Zoot Suit.

Zoot Suit was written and directed by Luis Valdez and had a legendary stage run in LA in the late 70s, then was made into a feature film. The play deals with the emergence of ultra chic second generation Latino/Chicanos who expressed their identities though ornate garb in LA in the 1940s during WWII. The play deals with the racial injustice of the times, during a time when racial profiling was the order of the day.

The idea of doing Zoot Suit came from Drama teacher Paul Crissy who saw the movie version of the play many years ago and loved it, Crissy says, "When I got the job at Concord High School and discovered the wealth of Latino talent at the school, I wanted to stage the play.

"The play in its subject matter it is incredibly timely and I believe that theater provides a unique opportunity to address ethnic themes in a respectful and impactful way. I trust the kids to deal with real issues."

The biggest question I get is, How do you get Mr. Valdez to let you do the play? The answer is I'm not sure, but I'm glad we're doing it. This is not your usual high school productions. Mr. Valdez has maintained control of any production of his play, and without his individual permission no one can legally stage a production".

"My appeal to Mr. Valdez through his associates came when high school kids were demonstrating against immigration policy, so that may have helped. I told him in a letter that this play needed to be seen by a new generation of Latinos, and I hope he has the vision of hundreds of high schools doing this play and impacting the way young Latinos see themselves."

"The importance of this fact is not lost on the young cast members." Ana Meza who plays Della, says, "This is a great way to learn about the history of the Latino culture here and to be a part of theater history, plus its great fun".

Crissy said, "We have a grant from a local theater oriented foundation to help with costs, and we have received loans of Zoot Suits from OG Latinos. Theaters have been very generous with costume rentals and loans, various departments at Concord High have pitched in to help".

"I have a young Latino co-director, Damien Diaz, from a local community college who has been extraordinary, and a great choreographer, Humu Yansane. But the main people making this work are my students in the play and the support crew. They have been absolutely amazing in their dedication to make this work".

"We cast this play with an appropriate ethnic cast. Elisandro Gonzales plays El Pachuco, Lorenzo Martinez is Henry Reyna, and Anakaren Meza plays Della. The mix has worked very well, and in some way is helping the Latino and Anglo cast members to know each other on an entirely new level."

"I expect the students who come to the play to expand their understanding of the reality of the Latino/Chicano experience from which many of the current generation has emerged. I also want the audiences to have a visceral reaction to the power of the drama that explodes into feelings of outrage, compassion and hope."

"It's about time we paid more attention to the Latino population in our schools and taught History from something other than an Anglo perspective. As an Anglo, I think our students; all of them...deserve this. Theater is my medium, and Zoot Suit is as powerful a statement as I can imagine."

"Zoot Suit" will be performed on May 3-5 and 11-13 at Concord High School in Concord California. rnrnFor additional information, please contact:

Director Paul Crissy, at 925-687-2030, or, 925-687-9799, or David Martinez at 925-521-001rnrnBe there or be square vatos.

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos plans to show up drapped ese in his ranfla with his Ruca.

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