Revival of ‘Zoot Suit’ at the Taper: A retelling of Filipino history in Los Angeles

Revival of ‘Zoot Suit’ at the Taper: A retelling of Filipino history in Los Angeles

Extended until March 26 

THE musical “Zoot Suit” opened at the Mark Taper Forum this week, but it already has been selling out tickets fast, thus two weeks have been added until March 26.

“Zoot Suit” is hailed to be Broadway’s first Chicano play, written and directed by Luis Valdes, which opened at the Center Theater Group in 1978.  It has become a cultural phenomenon and I was able to catch the first preview run and was surprised at how Filipinos are mentioned countless times in the play, which prompted me to look into the history of the era and how that pertains to our culture.

Even after three decades, this play continues to strike a chord with themes such as generational clashes, racial discrimination, police brutality and media conspiracy.

The zoot suit is a term made popular by Chicanos for the garb that consisted of flamboyant hats, suspenders, an oversized suit and pants, with a chain (cadena) for a watch and wing-tipped or flashy leather shoes. Its popularity became a form of resistance to the Anglo-Saxon fashion and was believed to show a stark disassociation with white culture at the time.

For a lot of the Mexicans, Blacks and Filipinos, whose backbreaking work consisted of working in agricultural fields and labor jobs, their evenings were to show off the fruits of their labor when they would proliferate the dance halls and cabarets. History shows us the tumultuous times when riots exploded around Los Angeles that targeted anyone in a zoot suit and the musical captures the racial tension some can argue we find ourselves in today.

Make sure to go out to the Mark Taper Forum in downtown Los Angeles to experience how through song and dance, a retelling of our history as Filipinos in Los Angeles can be witnessed. Despite the play’s Chicano characters, it similarly mirrors the struggle of our people. Tickets are available at


Giselle “G” Töngi is the host and producer of Kababayan Today, a daily talk show that features relevant topics for Filipinos living in America. Her aim is to bridge not only the cultural gap between America & the Philippines but to help with the generational gap between our own people. She is married with two children and is based in Southern California and makes frequent trips in the Pacific Rim to Hawaii and Manila to feature fellow kababayans who are empowering the FilAm community.

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