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A groundbreaking play in three languages: Tamales de Puerco (Pork Tamales) opens

Tamales de Puerco (Pork Tamales) at Casa 0101 Theater, April 5-28, 2013
Tamales de Puerco (Pork Tamales) at Casa 0101 Theater, April 5-28, 2013
Photos by Ed Krieger

Tonight is opening night for debut playwright Mercedes Floresislas' play Tamales de Puerco (Pork Tamales) at Casa 0101 Theater. It is the first Latino play in Los Angeles that is performed in three languages--English, Spanish and American sign language. It tells the story of Norma Morales, (played by Cristal Gonzalez) a mother to a Deaf son that, when her husband resorts to violence to cope with his son's deafness, Norma must flee and maneuver in three languages to survive and protect her child. Mercedes wrote this play in 2008 while taking a playwriting class taught by Casa 0101 Theater founding artistic director, Josefina López (Real Women Have Curves, Detained in the Desert) who eventually became her mentor.

Tamales de Puerco director Edward Padilla says “we produced a beautiful workshop production of it in 2008, directed by Corky Dominguez. This play stayed with me since then. While it tackles many issues that we are still facing today in our local community, including immigration, street vending, and homelessness, the issue of domestic violence is one that rings prominently for me.”

Mercedes explains “the idea of Tamales De Puerco (Pork Tamales) started one day when, while eavesdropping on my son and his Deaf friends, I caught them teasing him for wanting to be an actor. His friends told him: ‘You can’t be an actor! You’re Mexican and Deaf! If you were Mexican, you could. Or just Deaf, you could too, but both? Have you ever seen a Deaf Mexican on television?’” Mercedes continues, “Although I tried to take the opportunity to give the ‘you can be all you can be’ lecture, I failed miserably. After all, what did I know? In their minds I was just being a mom! Besides, if they’ve never seen it, how could these Deaf children believe me?” It was Josefina López’s words one day, "The story is more important than your fears," that gave Mercedes the courage that she needed to tell her story and fight her doubts and fears that we as writers sometimes feel when we are called to tell such an important story as this.

The play features a 16-actor cast that includes Deaf actors as well as Mercedes herself and her real-life son, Michael Anthony Martinez-Islas who’s desire to become an actor was the seed that blossomed into Tamales De Puerco. Michael says “he once thought that he could never become an actor because he had never seen a Deaf Latino in the media.” And now here he is, starring in a play in Los Angeles thanks to his mother Mercedes who was “reminded that the people I wanted to serve were more important than my fears.” Reflecting on this play, now five years later since it was first workshopped in Los Angeles, and with a few years as a therapist under her belt, Mercedes has realized “the real reason I wrote this play: Tamales de Puerco is an expression of gratitude to the Deaf Community for my life.”

The play stars Arturo Aranda, Alfredo Avila, Oscar T. Basulto, Brian M. Cole, Maria Correa, Jaden Delgado, Mercedes Floresislas, Ramona Pilar Gonzales, Cristal Gonzalez, Dickie Hearts, Michael Anthony Martinez-Islas, Scott McMaster, Lynn Moran, Miriam Peniche, Antonio Perez, and Olin Tonatiuh. With beautiful set design by Marco de Leon. It is produced by Mercedes Floresislas and Miguel Garcia.

Tamales de Puerco (Pork Tamales) opens tonight, Friday, April 5, 2013 to a sold-out audience and will run through April 28, 2013. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 5:00 p.m. It is playing at Casa 0101 Theater located in the heart of the Boyle Heights Artist District at 2102 E. First Street (at St. Louis Street), Los Angeles, CA 90033.

For tickets, please call the Casa 0101 Theater Box Office at 323-263-7684, email tickets@casa0101.org, or reserve online at www.casa0101.org.

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