About Luis Valdez

Luis Valdez has received numerous honors and awards for his work. These include an Obie in 1968, as well as Los Angeles Drama Critics awards in 1969, 1972, and 1978, and an Emmy in 1973. In 1983 the San Francisco Bay Critics Circle awarded him the award for Best Musical. He was also honored that same year by President Reagan's Committee on Arts and Humanities. He has received honorary doctorates from Columbia College, San Jose State University, and the California Institute of the Arts.

Legitimately called the father of Chicano theater, playwright and director Luis Valdez has given this movement a voice since 1963, when his first play was staged by the drama department at San Jose State University. From there he went on to found El Teatro Campesino in 1965, a touring farm workers' theater troupe. El Teatro Campesino produced one-act plays, often without stage, script, or props, that dramatized the circumstances of migrant workers and ignited a national Chicano theater movement, or teatro chicano. Valdez has written, co-written, and directed many plays depicting the Hispanic experience, including La Carpe de los Rasquachis (1973), El Fin del Mundo (1973), Zoot Suit (1978), and Tibercio Vasquez (1980). He also directed the box-office smash movie La Bamba in 1987.

Valdez has received numerous honors and awards for his work. These include on Obie in 1968, as well as Los Angeles Drama Critics awards in 1969, 1972, and 1978, and an Emmy in 1973. In 1983 the San Francisco Bay Critics Circle awarded him the award for Best Musical. He was also honored that same year by President Reagan's Committee on Arts and Humanities. He has received honorary doctorates from Columbia College, San Jose State University, and the California Institute of the Arts.

In this year's selection for the Summer Reading Series, Zoot Suit, Valdez weaves a story involving the real-life events of the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial -- when a group of young Mexican-Americans were wrongfully charged with murder -- and the Zoot Suit Riots. In the play, Henry Reyna (inspired by the real-life defendant Henry Leyvas) is a pachuco gangster and his gang, who were unfairly prosecuted, are thrown in jail for a murder they did not commit. The play is set in the barrios of Los Angeles in the early 1940's against the backdrop of the Zoot Suit Riots and World War II.

The broadway production of Zoot Suit debuted at the Winter Garden Theater on March 25, 1979, and closed April 29 after 41 performances. This production was directed by Valdez himself and was noted for Edward James Olmos' dynamic portrayal of El Pachuco, a mythical figure that acts as a sort of Greek chorus to the action.

For more information:

Click here to get more information about Luis Valdez.

Click here to get more information on El Teatro Campesino.