Zoot Suit Riots Essay

854 WordsMay 23, 20054 Pages
Based on the infamous 1942 "Sleepy Lagoon" murder mystery and the resulting "Zoot Suit Riots" in Los Angeles , playwright Luis Valdez weaves fact and fiction to depict the fate of 22 young Mexican Americans brought to trial for a murder they did not commit. "Zoot Suit" brings together unforgettable characters such as the irreverent El Pachuco and the charismatic Henry Reyna, an unsuspecting gang leader who finds himself caught in the middle of the racially turbulent events that rocked Los Angeles during the early 1940s. Valdez says this production exemplifies the evolution of American society. "The essence about the American experience is about cultural fusion," Valdez says. "'Zoot Suit' has influences that were brought on during the…show more content…
"We made masks for our costumes out of paper mache; and I got a monkey mask made from my lunch bag. I also got a tail and I remember our costumes were really nice, made with nice material. I was so excited." Valdez never got to perform in his school play because the week before the play, his family, who were farm workers, were evicted from their home and had to move. "They play went on without me," he says. "I never got to act and I was very disappointed. That event created this hole in me; and I think from then on I've been trying to fill it through my work." Valdez's experience in a farm worker family provided much encouragement and drive when he founded El Teatro Campesino. In 1965, Valdez left the San Francisco Mime Troupe to join Cesar Chavez in organizing farmworkers in Delano, Calif. Valdez organized the workers into El Teatro Campesino (The Farmworkers Theater) in an effort to popularize and raise funds for the grape boycott and farmworker strike. In 1968, El Teatro Campesino left the fields in a conscious effort to create a theater that reflected the greater Chicano experience. A year later, El Teatro Campesino garnered national attention with an Off-Broadway Obie Award and the Los Angeles Drama Critics Award in 1969 and 1972. After touring the international theatre circuit with critical
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