Published on October 20th, 2017 | by Pauline Gonzalez0
As opening night for Samo’s fall play, Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez, closes in, the Samo theater program is working hard to transform the Humanities Center into a 1930s Los Angeles set in the midst of the Zoot Suit Riots. Unlike past plays the theater program has produced, Zoot Suit stands out in its elements of music and dance that tie into its overall dramatic tone.
Following the experiences of Henry Reyna and the 38th Street Gang, Valdez’s play satirizes the discrimination of Mexican-Americans. This is done by telling the story of the aftermath of the Sleepy Lagoon Murder and the sensational murder trial resulting in the unjust arrest and imprisonment of many Mexican-American men.
This play was the first show on Broadway to feature such a diverse cast and was a watershed accomplishment for the Mexican-American and theatrical community. It allows people, starting from the 1970s, to see a story about police brutality against Mexican-Americans.
“This is a really important play right now. It tells the story of discrimination in the 1930s that unfortunately still holds true. This is a fun play, full of musicality and insight into Mexican American culture, but juxtaposed with racial discrimination and the reality of being a person of color in those times,” Adya Mohanty (’18) said
Mohanty will be playing the lead role of the Pachuca, the alter-ego of Henry Reyna. And, while this role is traditionally played by a man, her strong skills as an actress made her the best fit for the role.
“Zoot Suit is different from any production we have done in that it is a production of fact and fantasy. The Pachuco plays with time and we flash in and out of scenes with a snap. My role as the Pachuca is the storyteller. I see myself as a revolutionary; both against racism, and since I am a female playing his role, against the patriarchy,” Mohanty said.
According to Theatre Director Kate Barraza, the storyline that the play follows is compelling and relevant to issues we face today, even though it was originally introduced in 1978. Similarly, she enjoys how the production is executed.
“It’s an extremely well-written and active fall play that includes dance, music, and stage combat to parallel [issues] we see today and showcase the unfairness of the justice system. People believe that times have changed, but they haven’t changed all that much,” Barraza said. “You have to see it to really understand the message it puts forth.”
Zoot Suit opens on Oct. 27 and plays on Oct. 29, Nov. 3 and Nov. 5 at the Humanities Center.