"Latins Anonymous" began when four Latino actors, tired of Hollywood stereotyping them as anonymous drug lords and pregnant maids, decided to write a comedy for themselves that would lampoon Latino cliches.
As they stayed up long nights dreaming up skits, Luisa Leschin, Diane Rodriguez, Armando Molina and Rick Najera hoped their show would last long enough to prove to agents and producers that they could do comedy as well as cliches.
When the show opened at the Los Angeles Theatre Center Sept. 15, "Latins Anonymous" was booked for a six-week run. But with the show having been extended time and again for 6 1/2 months--the longest-running program in the theater's history--they find they are not so anonymous anymore.
After "Latins Anonymous" closes at LATC on April 1, its next stop will be the San Diego Repertory Theatre in June.
They said they have been discussing a movie version of "Latins Anonymous" with Moctesuma Esparza, co-producer of "The Milagro Beanfield War." They are also talking about a television project of the same script with producer Richard Soto.
Najera was hired as a staff writer with the "Grand Slam" TV series and is working on a film script with Seabrook Productions.
Even though the group's initial hope was that "Latins Anonymous" would prove a showcase that would get them more acting jobs, casting agents have not been beating down their doors. Most of the nibbles have come from producers who want to see more of their work as writers.
"Ironically, we did this as four actors wanting to help ourselves," said Leschin, interviewed by telephone from Rodriguez's home, where she was working on a new script with Rodriguez and Molina.
"It's been a lesson in many ways in that you work two years refining a show, and you get it up and it's a big success, and people said it was great and wonderful and now give me more of your ideas," Leschin said.
Their popularity, however, has helped other Latino groups, said Jose Delgado, administrator of the Latino Theatre Lab that recommended the group to LATC.
"They have demonstrated that if you have Latino programming, the Latino community is going to come out," Delgado said. "They have definitely been one of our success stories."
Television producer Soto is clearly impressed with "Latins Anonymous," whose skits include, among others, Latinos who Anglicize their names (as Leschin did in real life) and the stereotype of macho Latinos in a piece called "Machos of Omaha."
"What appealed to me about the play is that I think that finally, finally, we can tell stories that are more complex about Hispanics in the city," Soto said. "These people reflect in real life what a lot of the people think they are doing on the stage.
"I think it's only the beginning," Soto said. "The emerging Hispanic middle class is the single most unreported phenomenon about Latinos today. I think there are Latinos all over this country that are waiting to hear their message."
Performances in English until April 1 are at 8 p.m. Fridays through Sundays with Saturday/Sunday matinees at 2. Tickets are $15 to $18. At 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles; (213) 627-5599.