San Juan Bautista resident and El Teatro Campesino founder, Luis Valdez, was recently named one of 683 new members of the The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He’s joined by 90 other directors in the Academy’s 2016 class, according to an announcement made Wednesday on the Academy’s website.
Last year, a social media firestorm erupted following the absence of minorities from the 88th Academy Awards' nominations list, notably its acting categories in which all contenders were white. Under the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, the Academy was criticized for its lack of racial diversity. Gender inequity within the Academy was also denounced. Some actors called upon their peers to boycott Tinseltown's most celebrated night, the Oscars.
In an apparent nod to critics, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is African-American, stated in January that the organization would increase its number of female and minority members by 2020—46 percent of the Academy’s new class is female and 41 percent are people of color.
Valdez's membership is for life and next year his vote will determine who carries home the film industry's most coveted prize, the 13.5 inch, gold-plated statuette.
As a 20-something-year-old playwright and actor, Valdez founded El Teatro Campesino (ETC) during the 1965 Delano Grape Strike, where he joined forces with the late labor leader, Cesar Chavez, to improve the lives and working conditions and wages of farmworkers.
Over the past 50 years, Valdez has created scores of critically acclaimed plays, produced a handful of TV programs, and directed two Hollywood films.
Written by Valdez and originally performed as a play, “Zoot Suit” is a work of fiction that's set in 1940s, wartime Los Angeles. It's based on the real-life murder of a 22-year-old Mexican national, the ensuing mass trial of mostly Mexican-American defendants, and the legendary Zoot Suit riots that erupted in the city’s streets in 1943.
The play’s success led to a film adaptation in 1981. Produced by Universal Pictures and directed by Valdez, the movie version was nominated for a Golden Globe, according to ETC’s website.
The 1986 film, “La Bamba,” marked Valdez's return to the big screen.
He wrote and directed the biopic that chronicles the meteoric rise and untimely death of the first Chicano rock star, Ritchie Valens.
Even though he’s often regarded as the Father of Chicano Theatre, Valdez eschews the label, calling his artistic style a product of the New American Theatre—a genre where diversity has long taken center stage and that the Academy is just now beginning to embrace.
For more information contact El Teatro Campesino playhouse:
705 Fourth Street
P.O. Box 1240
San Juan Bautista, CA 95045
To purchase tickets for El Teatro Campesino's new production, “!Viva La Causa!," visit the theater company's website. Because of the mobile and interactive nature of the production, seating is limited to 60 audience members per showing.
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