Casa 0101 Theater is currently presenting “I Don’t Have to Show You No Stinking Badges,” written by Luis Valdez, the creator of “Zoot Suit,” “La Bamba” and “Cisco Kid.”
This new production is the first in Los Angeles in 25 years. It stars Carmelita Maldonado as Connie Villa, Daniel E. Mora as Buddy Villa, Elizabeth Pan as Anita Sakai and Alex Valdivia as Sonny Villa, under the direction of Hector Rodriguez.
The play runs through March 10 at the New Casa 0101 Theater, 2102 E. First Street (at St. Louis Street) in Boyle Heights. Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 5 p.m. Running time is 120 minutes.
Set in 1985, “I Don’t Have to Show You No Stinking Badges” examines cultural stereotypes and prejudices. Sonny, a bright Chicano Harvard pre-law student, unexpectedly returns home to his showbiz parents in Monterey Park with an older Japanese American woman he met on the road to make an important announcement.
The title comes from Alfonso Bedoya’s dialogue with Humphrey Bogart in the 1948 movie “The Treasure of Sierra Madre.”
The play received its world premiere in 1986 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center and starred Robert Beltran (future star of “Star Trek: Voyager”) as Sonny, Patti Yasutake (“Gung Ho,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation”) as Anita, Anne Betancourt (“The Young and the Restless”) as Connie and James Victor (“Zorro”) as Buddy.
Subsequent productions have been mounted at San Diego Repertory (1987), the Burt Reynolds Jupiter Theatre in Florida (1988), Valdez’s El Teatro Campesino Playhouse in San Juan Bautista (1990 and 2003), Marines Memorial Theater in San Francisco (1990), Sacramento State University (1993-1994), River Stage at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento (1998-1999), San Jose State University (2000-2001), and Su Teatro in Denver (2007).
“I am excited and humbled to be part of this important play that is still relevant today in examining the images of Latinos in Hollywood and exposing how some things have changed and others have stayed the same,” said Rodriguez.
Casa 0101 Theater Artistic Director, Josefina López said, “‘I Don’t Have to Show You No Stinking Badges’ was the play that opened my eyes to the incredible injustice of stereotyping the Latino community and its impact on how we perceive reality. Right after I saw it I decided to devote my life to being a writer so I could tell the truth about all the lies told about Latinos and Latinas. I was so inspired by that play and I am saddened to see Latino stereotypes still persist in the U.S. especially on television and film.”
Valdez explained the background of the play: “My first exposure to the Hollywood moviemaking system was when I went to work as a writer and actor in a 1977 movie called ‘Which Way Is Up?’ starring Richard Pryor, helmed by African American director, Michael Schultz. Michael was a social activist and pioneer during the decade of ‘black exploitation’ movies in the ’70s, and he asked me to help him depict some Mexican American characters in a truthful way in his film.
“Knowing of my work with El Teatro Campesino in the Delano Grape Strike, he hired me to rewrite scenes depicting farm workers, then he gave me access, although he didn’t have to, into the whole Hollywood filmmaking process. I rewrote the scenes so that the characters were more authentic, not stereotypical, and then played the role of Ramon Juarez in the film, which was based on the character of César Chavez. Later, sticking around the set, and observing the shoot at Michael’s invitation, I got my first tutorial on the inside track of the business.
“During the making of the film, I had the opportunity to meet many people, including actors who played roles of ‘extras’ or ‘bit parts.’ Three of the actors who portrayed the roles of ‘extras’ in the film would try to sneak into and wedge themselves into scenes, whether they were supposed to be in them or not. Minorities didn’t get cast in lead roles that much in those days, and these ‘extras’ made a game of it. One of these ‘extra’ actors had appeared in the film ‘The Treasure of Sierra Madre.’
“It was the experience of working on the film ‘Which Way Is Up’ that became the inspiration for my play … Ironically enough, life imitated art in 1989 when a young Chicano named Jose Luis Razo Jr., dubbed ‘the Harvard Homeboy’ by the press, was arrested for holding up a fast-food restaurant, much like the Chicano character of Sonny Villa in my play.
“Sonny’s love interest in the play is a Japanese girl named Anita Sakai. I wrote the character as a third-generation Japanese American girl because Sonny is trying to relate to Anglo reality in the play, but having a Sansei girlfriend from the East Coast is like looking into a mirror.
“I grew up as a cotton picker in the ’40s and ’50s when discrimination was absolute. So when I went to college in 1958, I quickly joined the civil rights movement. I studied African American history and discovered my racial and cultural consciousness. Theater is my way of introducing people to Chicano reality.
“As a writer/director in Hollywood, I’ve had to use the Anglo side of my personality, but at that same time as a Mexican American, I’ve fought for equal representation of Chicano/Latino writers, directors and actors like myself, to ensure we all get a fair shake. In this regard, with Jesus Treviño, I founded the Latino Committee at the Directors Guild of America in the late ’80s.
“In my line of work as a playwright and director, one also has to learn how to stage a play creatively and economically when sometimes you don’t have the financial resources to put it all together. And besides the production of the play itself, there is much to be said about the power of the gesture, when used with skill. I try to bring cultural sophistication to my all work by writing truthful characters with depth and understanding.”
Concurrently with the run of the play there will be an art exhibition in the theater’s Jean Deleage Art Gallery entitled “Coalescing – The Sleeping Giant,” co-curated by Lilia Ramirez and Sonji Mariposa. It focuses on Latino identity in America.
Tickets for performances are $20 general, $17 for seniors, $15 for students and Boyle Heights residents. Group discounts are available. Reservations are highly recommended. Theater patrons can get a $2 discount by presenting their Metro bus cards at the box office when buying tickets. Metro bus stations are located on First Street in Boyle Heights at both Soto Street and Boyle Street (Mariachi Plaza), within walking distance of the theater.