Zoot Suit: Press Release

Zoot Suit posterWHO: The Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre presents

WHAT: ZOOT SUIT a play by Luis Valdez

DATES:  April 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, 31, May 1 & 2 

SHOWTIMES:    All performances at 7 p.m.

CLOSES: May 2            

WHERE:     University Theatre

220 E. San Fernando St.

San Jose, Ca. 95192


Students   $10 

General Admission  $20 

Available on line at www.sjsu.edu/trft and at the door    



Media contact: Barnaby Dallas

Email: Barnaby.Dallas@sjsu.edu



March 23, 2015 -- San Jose, CA -- San Jose State's Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre announces that it will continue its spring season with Zoot Suit, playing April 23-May 2 in the University Theatre on campus.  It was written by famous playwright and director, Luis Valdez, a 1963 alumnus of the university, and will be directed by his son, Kinan Valdez.

Debuting in 1979, Zoot Suit was the first Chicano play on Broadway.  The story shines a spotlight on a wave of racial injustice and disharmony that swept across Los Angeles in the early 1940s.   The plot is a fictionalized version of real-life events -- sparked by the so-called Sleepy Lagoon murder trial -- and centers around Henry Reyna, better known as the zoot suiter El Pachuco.  On his last night of freedom before beginning his Naval service, Reyna and his "gang" are accused of the murder of a rival "gangster" after a party. Unfairly prosecuted, the entire group is thrown in jail for a murder they did not commit. The play is set in the barrios of Los Angeles, against the backdrop of the tumultuous Zoot Suit Riots and World War II.

Says TRFT Department Chair, David Kahn, "We are delighted to have the opportunity to present this great play, especially since it's written by Luis Valdez, one of our most distinguished alums.  The story presents an episode in history that many of our students may not be familiar with, but they should be, and its messages about the dangers of stereotyping and racial injustice are still fresh and relevant today."

Luis Valdez was the son of migrant farm workers, one of ten siblings, and spent his childhood in the fields of Central California, starting work at the age of 6.  He came to San Jose State with a scholarship to study math and physics, but by his sophomore year had developed an interest in writing and switched his major to English, and won a playwriting contest for a one-act, The Theft.

Says SJSU Professor Barnaby Dallas, “The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for our first production of Zoot Suit.  2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Luis Valdez’s first full-length play, The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa, which was originally produced by our department when Luis was a student here."

After graduation, Valdez spent the next few months with The San Francisco Mime Troupe, where he was introduced to agitprop theatre and Italian commedia dell'arte. Then he brought migrant workers and students together to form El Teatro Campesino, which toured migrant worker camps presenting actos, one-act plays meant to educate and inform audiences about issues relating to farm workers and the Chicano population in general.  A pioneer in the Chicano Movement, Valdez broadened the scope of theatre and arts of the Chicano community.

Luis Valdez's son, Kinan -- who will direct San Jose State's production -- is a theater artist and social activist in his own right. He is the producing artistic director at today's El Teatro Campesino, situated in San Juan Bautista. The theater production company has had several incarnations over its nearly 50 years of existence, but still has a mission to encourage new generations to explore social issues through art.

SJSU’s Zoot Suit runs April 23-25 and April 28-May 2, with performances at 7 pm in the University Theatre 220 E. San Fernando, San Jose, CA. Tickets are $10-$20, and are available online at www.sjsu.edu/trft or at the door.