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."
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.
- Luis Valdez: 1940—: Playwright, Director, Writer, Actor, Teacher - La Bamba
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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"