Santa Barbara, Calif. -- To mark the opening of the Teatro Campesino
archives, UC Santa Barbara will host a one-day conference later this
month featuring Luis Valdez, the founder and artistic director of the
world-renowned Latino theater company.
Titled "Necessary Theater: Luis Valdez and El Teatro Campesino," the
conference will begin at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, January 12, in the
campus's MultiCultural Center. It is free and open to the public. The
program will explore Chicano/Latino theater in the United States, as
well as Latin American theater. It will include panel discussions; a
keynote speech by Valdez, titled "Up From the Roots: The Flowering of
El Teatro Campesino"; and a stage performance by the political comedy
troupe Chicano Secret Service.
"This conference is a milestone for us as we celebrate the opening of
the Teatro Campesino archives," said Salvador Güereña, director of
UCSB's California Ethnic Multicultural Archives ( CEMA ), where the
collection resides. "The Teatro's historical archive is of
inestimable value to understanding the origins and the evolution of
Chicano theater." Until now, the archives have, for the most part,
been closed, and scholars, students, and the general public had
little or no access to them.
Among the archives is a collection of vintage video recordings, made
available by CEMA last summer, that represent the first 25 years of
the company's history. The recordings feature vintage theater
performances; historical documentaries on the farm workers movement;
scenes from the award-winning play and film "Zoot Suit"; and such
shows as "Rose of the Rancho," "Los Corridos," and "La Pastorela."
Other documents and materials in the archives include interviews with
Valdez and other members of the theater company; commentaries by
United Farm Workers leader César Chavez; scripts and production
notes; photographs, graphic art, and set designs; audio recordings;
and correspondence files.
"Luis Valdez and El Teatro Campesino influenced a generation of young
Chicano artists, many of whom cast their lot and joined different
Chicano theater companies in the 1960's and 70's," said Carlos
Morton, a professor of theater and dance at UCSB. "I joined the San
Francisco Mime Troupe from 1979-81, a company that Valdez worked with
earlier in his career. We owe a debt to him and others who started
this incredible theater movement that brought joy and pride to a
generation of Chicanos a movement that still continues today and
is recognized worldwide."
Valdez founded El Teatro Campesino during the Great Delano Grape
Strike of 1965, with short performances for audiences of farm workers
in the fields of California's Central Valley. Within five years, El
Teatro had gained an international reputation and had inspired the
formation of many other Chicano theater companies. During the
company's early years, all the actors were farm workers. Valdez
emphasized ensemble work, in which all actors contributed to the
interpretation of the performance. Most troupe members took on
multiple roles, with one person serving as an actor, technical
director, company manager, and tour coordinator.
A Council Member of the National Endowment for the Arts, Valdez is
also a founding faculty member of California State University,
Monterey Bay. He is the recipient of honorary doctorates from San
Jose State University, the University of Santa Clara, Columbia
College of Chicago, and the California Institute of the Arts. His
first major critical and popular success was a production of his play
"Zoot Suit," which was funded through a Rockefeller Foundation
Artist-in-Residence grant in 1977 and subsequently became the first
play by a Chicano to be produced on Broadway. Among his other
creative projects are a film version of "Zoot Suit," which received a
Golden Globe Award nomination for "Best Musical Picture" in 1981; the
film "La Bamba," which was written and directed by Valdez; and an
adaptation of his own stage play, "Corridos: Tales of Passion and
Revolution," for which he received the George Peabody Award for
Excellence in Television in 1987.
Other projects include "The Cisco Kid," a film Valdez directed for
Turner Network Television, and a biopic for Warner Brothers on the
life of Cesar Chávez, for which he is writing the screenplay.