Culture Clash member Ric Salinas back at San Diego Rep for filmed play ’57 Chevy’

Ric Salinas stars in San Diego Repertory Theatre's filmed production of the solo play "57 Chevy."
Ric Salinas stars in San Diego Repertory Theatre’s filmed production of the solo play “57 Chevy.”
(Herbert Siguenza)

The solo play is a humorous and poignant story about a Mexican boy’s “double immigration” to America


This summer at San Diego Repertory Theatre, Ric Salinas is starring in “57 Chevy,” a filmed memory play about a man looking back on his childhood as a “double immigrant.”

First the boy’s family moves from Mexico to culturally diverse East Los Angeles in the 1950s. Then, as their fortunes improve, they migrate again in their 1957 Chevrolet to the mostly White suburbs of the San Fernando Valley.

The humorous solo play about cultural displacement and assimilation was written by L.A. playwright and screenwriter Cris Franco, based on his own immigration story and his relationship with his father. But Salinas said the story could be his own.

Salinas was 6 years old when his family immigrated to L.A. from El Salvador, and a year later they headed north to San Francisco. That’s where, in 1984, Salinas co-founded the Latino performance troupe Culture Clash, which has been creating satirical Latino theater ever since at theaters nationwide, including San Diego Rep, where “57 Chevy” opens for streaming on Monday, July 26..

Now 60, Salinas said that when Franco first called and asked him to perform in an L.A. reading of “57 Chevy” about six years ago, he was floored by the script.

“It landed in my lap and I loved it,” Salinas said. “We all have an immigration story, but when you arrive here and you’re a kid under 10, you just become a sponge. It’s also a universal story about how all fathers wants their sons and daughters to achieve whatever they didn’t have.”

Ric Salinas in San Diego Repertory Theatre's filmed production of "57 Chevy."
(Herbert Siguenza)

Salinas calls San Diego Rep his “second home” because of the many times he has performed there with Culture Clash, a trio that includes Richard Montoya and Herbert Siguenza, who is the Rep’s playwright in residence. Salinas last appeared at the Rep two years ago, when he co-starred in Siguenza’s play “Bad Hombres/Good Wives” and in a workshopped reading of “57 Chevy” at the 2019 Latinx New Play Festival.

After the pandemic wiped out live programming last year, Rep artistic director Sam Woodhouse and Siguenza got the idea to bring Salinas back in a fully staged filmed production of “57 Chevy,” which they co-directed. Salinas said he was thrilled to present the play with sets and costumes, but sorry the punchlines couldn’t be enjoyed by a live audience.

Siguenza said audiences will love Salinas’s performance.

“I have been creating American theater with Ric Salinas for 37 years. It’s safe to say that Ric is the most authentic, most charming, most charismatic performer I have ever seen,” Siguenza said in a statement. “You will fall in love with him all over again with this tour de force one-person show about the Mexican American experience.”

The play is told by Junior as an older man, looking back on the day in 1964 when his family piled into the Chevy to start a new life in the suburbs. Salinas plays 18 characters, including Junior’s father, mother and sisters, the American consulate employee who helped the family immigrate to the U.S. and various other L.A. characters, like a “Valley dude” and a Catholic school nun.

Although he has performed satiric and activist theater for nearly 40 years, Salinas called “57 Chevy” one of the most political pieces he’s ever done because it tells a human story about Latinos that has not been told in American theaters.

“We’re always exposed to Latino stories about the victim, the gangbanger or the guy crossing the border,” he said. “This is a story about assimilation and the American dream. I realized if I’m doing this, this means we’ve arrived at a different level of storytelling for Latinos.”

“57 Chevy”

When: Streaming Monday, July 26 through Aug. 15

Tickets: $35