(born June 26
) is an American playwright
and film director
He is regarded as the father of Chicano theater in the United States.
Valdez was born in Delano, California
to migrant farm worker
parents. Valdez graduated from James Lick High School
in San Jose
and went on attend San Jose State University
(SJSU) on a scholarship for math
. He later switched his major and earned a degree in English
According to Valdez when he was six years old, he watched a teacher use part of a paper bag to make paper-mâché masks for a theater production. This experience transformed him and would have a lasting effect. In college it helped lead him to the theater. Valdez's first full-length play, The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa. debuted at SJSU in 1963.
After graduation, Valdez spent the next few months with The San Francisco Mime Troupe
, where he was introduced to agitprop theatre
In 1965, Valdez returned to Delano, where he formed El Teatro Campesino, a farm workers' theater troupe. Valdez's teatro was influential, according to Gale Resources, "Thanks to Valdez and El Teatro Campesino. What began as a farm workers' theater in the migrant camps of Delano now exploded into a national Chicano theater movement. Theater groups sprang up with surprising speed on college campuses and in communities throughout the United States.
As a media figure of the Chicano Movement, Valdez often lectures about El Teatro Campesino, media representations of Mexicans and Mexican Americans, and the importance of Chicano-produced media in order to help countering negative ethnic stereotypes.
Mr. Valdez is a founding faculty member and director (c. 1994) of the California State University, Monterey Bay, Teledramatic Arts and Technology Department. He is helping develop a university program that prepares students in the entertainment industry: filmmaking, writing, sound, cinematography, and the like.
Zoot Suit (play and film)
Valdez's first work that brought him some attention to larger audiences was the play Zoot Suit
which ran in 1978 at the Mark Taper Forum
, in Los Angeles
and played for forty-six weeks to more than 40,000 people. With Zoot Suit,
Valdez became the first Chicano director to have a play presented on Broadway
in 1979. Later, it was made into a film
In Zoot Suit, Luis 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.
The film that brought Valdez his "breakthrough into mainstream America" was La Bamba
which debuted in 1987
The film, about Ritchie Valens, a popular Chicano 1950s rock and roller, "was an overwhelming box office success" according to BookRags.
- The Cisco Kid (1994), writer and director. Valdez also had a small role as Presidente Benito Juárez.
- La Pastorela (1991), writer and director.
- Corridos: Tales of Passion & Revolution (1987), writer and director.
- La Bamba (1987), writer and director.
- Chicanos Story (1982), writer and director.
- Zoot Suit (1981), writer and director.
Hrs and awards (not inclusive)
- Golden Globe Award nominations for "Best Musical Picture," Zoot Suit and La Bamba.
- Cartagena Film Festival, Best Picture Award, Zoot Suit, 1982, Cartagena, Colombia.
- George Peabody Award for excellence in television in 1987, Corridos: Tales of Passion and Revolution for PBS.
- California Governor's Award, March, 1990.
- Mexico's Aguila Azteca Award, 1994.
- 2007 USA (United States Artists) Rockefeller Fellow