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Luis Valdez: 1940—: Playwright, Director, Writer, Actor, Teacher

El Teatro Campesino

Following graduation from high school, Valdez attended San Jose State University where he produced his first play, The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa, in 1964. Following a short time with the famed San Francisco Mime Troupe, Valdez joined activist Cesar Chavez in 1965 and sought to raise funds for the grape boycott and farmworkers strike that Chavez had organized, and bring attention to the plight of migrant farmworkers. Thus begun El Teatro Campesino which performed short plays based on the struggles of the farmworkers and people of Mexican descent. "He addressed cultural and Chicano issues from the point of view of a migrant farmworker," Professor Arsenio Cordova of the University of New Mexico told the Albuquerque Journal. "He's been able to address those attitudes totally, of discrimination."

At a Glance . . .

Born Luis Miguel Valdez on June 26, 1940, in Delano, CA; married Guadalupe, August 23, 1969; children: Anahuac, Kinan, Lakin. Education: San Jose State University, 1964.

Career: Founder and artistic director, El Teatro Campesino, 1965-; playwright: The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa, 1964; La Virgen de Tepeyac, 1971; La Carpa de los Rasquachis, 1974; El Fin del Mundo, 1976; Zoot Suit, 1979; Tibercio Vasquez, 1980; Corridos: Tales of Passion and Revolution, 1983; I Don't Have to Show You No Stinking Badges, 1986; Ban-dido!, 1994; The Mummified Deer, 2000; Mundo Mata, 2001; screenwriter: Which Way Is Up?, 1977; Zoot Suit (also director),1982; La Bamba (also director), 1987; author: Actos: Produced Between 1965-70, 1971; Aztlan: An Anthology of Mexican American Literature, (with Stan Steiner), 1972; Pensamiento Serpentino: A Chicano Approach to the Theater of Reality, 1973; University of California, Santa Cruz; lecturer in theater arts, University of California, Berkeley, lecturer in Chicano History and Theater; Center for Teledramatic Arts and Technology at California State University, founding faculty tenured professor.

Memberships: Writers Guild of America; Society of State Directors and Choreographers; California Arts Council; National Endowment of the Arts.

Awards: Obie Award, 1969; Los Angeles Drama Critic Circle Award, 1969, 1972, 1978; Emmy Award 1973; Best Musical Picture Golden Globe nomination, 1981; San Francisco Bay Critics Circle Award, 1983; Governors Award of the California Arts Council, 1990; Aquila Azteca Award, Government of Mexico, 1994.

Addresses: El Teatro Campesino, PO Box 1250, San Juan Bautista, CA 95045.

After four years the small theater company received national recognition by winning an Obie Award in New York and a Los Angeles Drama Critics Award in 1969, and then another L.A. Drama Critics Award in 1972. In 1977 Valdez co-wrote the screenplay for Which Way is Up?, a comedy starring Richard Pryor, and received a Rockefeller Foundation Artists-In-Residence grant which enabled him to write the most famous play to come out of El Teatro Campesino in 1979, Zoot Suit.

Zoot Suit was based on the murder of a Mexican American and the subsequent unfair trial of Mexican Americans or zoot suiters, as they were termed by the press in Los Angeles in the early 1940s. A musical, Valdez's Zoot Suit become one of the most popular plays to have ever originated in Los Angeles and was the first play by a Chicano to be presented on Broadway. A movie version, also written and directed by Valdez and starring Edward James Olmos, was released in 1981 and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Musical Picture.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Theodosius I to David Watmough Biography - David Watmough comments:Luis Valdez: 1940—: Playwright, Director, Writer, Actor, Teacher Biography - El Teatro Campesino, La Bamba, Back To "the Farmworker Question"