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Ganging Up on Gangs : Producers of 'Duke of Earl II' Hope to Show Members a Way Out

July 09, 1993|ANDREA HEIMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When Pastor Ed Morales was a student at Fullerton High School, he spent most of his time in the principal's office.

"I never went to class, I was a trouble-maker, always messing around," he said.

Morales, then known as "Mundie," was more than just a trouble-maker--he was a gang leader in the south-central Fullerton barrio known as Tokers Town. At 16, he was arrested for inciting a riot. He later became a heroin addict, and said he regularly robbed the cash boxes at gas stations to support his habit.

Morales found his way out one night in 1975.

He was planning on "doing robberies" to get money for drugs, and instead decided to take the advice of a friend from Victory Outreach, a church that rehabilitates drug addicts and gang members. He entered a men's rehabilitation home in Los Angeles that night. It was then that he "found Jesus Christ," and his life changed, he said.

Morales, now 40 and the pastor for Victory Outreach in San Jose, brings his experience to the stage in "Duke of Earl II," a play written for addicts and gang members.

The play--a sequel to "Duke of Earl," which Morales wrote and produced in 1979--features former gang members playing the parts of gang members involved in a territory dispute. The play depicts the depravation of gang life and shows a way out through turning to God.

The San Jose troupe will perform the show tonight at 7 p.m and Saturday at 6 p.m. at the 1,500-capacity Santa Ana High School auditorium. Already, 9,000 tickets have been sold throughout Orange County, said Pastor John Sebreros of Victory Outreach in Santa Ana. He said extra performances will be added as necessary.

Sebreros has high hopes for the play, which was staged in Orange last year.

"In the play they can identify with the people, and see that there is a better way," he said. "We're expecting some men and women to make a decision that very night to join a rehab home, kick drugs, get out of a life of violence and temptation, leave the gangs and become Christians."

The plot in "Duke" revolves around two rival gang leaders, "Duke" and "Indio." Both are drug dealers involved in a fight over gang territory. Because of a tragedy that ensues, one of them decides to leave the gang and turn his life over to Jesus.

Morales developed the play in hopes that it would effectively reach gang members who don't pay attention to calls from the pulpit.

"People won't go to church, but when you put on a drama, people come, and they identify with the drama," said Morales, who became a pastor in 1979. "We show the drugs and violence, but we don't amplify it--this has a positive message."

Morales said the play gives gang members perspective.

"When you are an addict or a gang member, there is no way you can stop and look at yourself," he said. "You're so wrapped up in it, so caught up in the web, you don't see how you look or act or the consequences of what you're doing.

"In the play we dress like them, we talk like them, they can see themselves on stage and say, 'Oh, this is how we look, this is how we act, and this is the end result,' " he said.

Morales has taken his play on the road throughout California and said he has reached at least 100,000 people. His troupe has performed for the Crips and Bloods in South-Central Los Angeles, for the "worst Chicano neighborhoods in East Los Angeles," and this week in San Diego for "bona fide gang leaders and their right-hand men--no wanna-bes."

A Christian production company made the original "Duke of Earl" into a video, and Morales is working on a script to make the "Duke of Earl II" into a film.

He said the play and video have affected many youths, who, even if they don't join Victory Outreach, often make a decision to change their lives.

"Many people go back to the religion they grew up with, some get involved with going to school, others just go back home after being on the run," he said.

"People tell me everywhere that we have touched them," Morales said. "I was at Sea World this week watching Shamu, and a guy came up to me all tattooed--I could tell he'd been to prison--he said he's seen the movie and his life has never been the same."

*Victory Outreach presents "Duke Of Earl II" tonight at 7 and Saturday at 6 p.m., at Santa Ana High School auditorium, 520 W. Walnut St., Santa Ana. $2 donation. (714) 479-0155.

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