David Valdez used to think his story about growing up as the youngest child of a large immigrant family in East Los Angeles was unique. That all changed when he started performing an autobiographical one-man show.

“The more personal and specific I got about my story, the more people would come up to me and say: ‘that’s exactly what happened to me,’” says Valdez, who returns to Casa 0101 this weekend for a limited run of “Scarred for Life.”

Valdez, whose daytime job is as director of youth development at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA, tells an universal story of immigrant struggle and success. In his case, the story of how he traded the streets of the barrio for the halls of Yale University.

“Every one-man show is about identity,” says the 36-year-old writer and performer, who was inspired by John Leguizamo’s award-winning monologues. “This is about the importance of family and the struggle to survive the transition [from the neighborhood to an Ivy League School.”

Valdez –one of only two out of seven children in his family born in the U.S.– says he was inspired by a mentor to write the piece by piecing together dozens of funny and poignant anecdotes about growing up. Most of those stories made it into the piece, which he premiered for his birthday in January of 2013.

That original performance at Casa 0101 was sold out, and not just because Valdez asked all his friends to attend as a birthday gift to him. The performance was noted by the organizers of the New York Fringe Festival, who invited Valdez to perform it there last year. And when a weekend unexpectedly opened up in Casa 0101’s calendar this month, Valdez was invited to restage “Scarred for Life.”

The poster for Scarred for Life
The poster for Scarred for Life

The show opened on Friday and Valdez performs the monologue twice on Saturday Sept. 12th, at 7 and 9 p.m., and once on Sunday Sept. 13 at 5:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 general admission, with discounts for seniors and students ($17) and Boyle Heights Residents ($15).

Casa 0101 is at 2102 East 1st Street, Los Angeles. Reservations: (323) 263-7684 or www.casa0101.org

Antonio Mejías-Rentas is a Senior Editor at Boyle Heights Beat, where he mentors teenage journalists, manages the organization’s website and covers local issues. A veteran bilingual journalist, he's...

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