Scott Marks 4:26 p.m., May 21
Something's always bothered me about the media's process with a theatrical production. As with movies, there's a build-up - previews, interviews, etc. - then the opening night review, and then, much more often than not, nothing. Coverage, flash, and zilch.
No follow-up. Just another disposable experience, like so much else these days.
I like the notion of post-views: give sources people interested in the subject can consult after the fact.
Cast in point: The Rep's epic Zoot Suit - which closes this Sunday - combines two hallmark events in Southern California history: the Sleepy Lagoon Murders and the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943. During the latter, civilians and servicemen on leave from the war sought out anyone wearing the suddenly evil couture, beat them, and stripped them of their "drapes."
Both events are like magnets: they attract all kinds of information about the place, the times, and attitudes in post-Pearl Harbor L.A. (and San Diego, where rampaging sailors attacked Mexican Americans and anyone who looked like a "draft dodger").
Google has articles, but most only go so far.
Books and articles:
Carey McWilliams, North From Mexico (Kevin Starr, who has a chapter on "Zoot Suit" in Embattled Dreams, calls McWilliams "the single finest non-fiction writer on California -ever").
George J. Sanchez, Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945
Luis Valdez (who wrote the play), "Once Again, Meet the Zoot-Suiters," Los Angeles Times, August 13, 1978, Part 5, p. 3.
Thomas Sanchez, Zoot-Suit Murders.
Mauricio Mazon, The Zoot-Suit Riots: The Psychology of Symbolic Annihilation. Mazon probes behind conventional explanations. Racism was indeed a factor, as others point out, but he's drawn to the "carnival-like atmosphere, in which servicemen and civilians acted out inhibitions about the war." They "became like the gangs they intended to annihilate, and were aggressively mimicking and reenacting their own experience in basic training."
These are by no means the only works on the subject, or possibly even the best. But each provides background and attempts to make sense of events that grow in complexity the closer one looks.