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10 Things You Should Know About Luis Valdez

Get to know the director of Zoot Suit, coming to the Mark Taper Forum in 2017

By Belinda Quesada, Contributing Writer
Published on LatinoLA: November 21, 2016


10 Things You Should Know About Luis Valdez


1. Straight "A" student in high school and a science and history nerd.

2. Received a college scholarship and graduated with honors from San José State University.

3. Still keeps in touch with his high school English teacher, Mr. Ed Farrell, with whom he still visits. Mr. Farrell is 90 and still remembers where Luis sat in class.

4. Severely burned as a baby in a freak household accident. Little Luis had to sleep on his mothers' chest, heart-to-heart, for a year until his skin on his back and head grew in. He contributes his lifelong success in part due to the scalding water that recharged his batteries by awakening his spine and activating his nervous system.

5. Received the Presidential National Medal of the Arts twice! The first time in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, but he never attended the White House ceremony to collect his award due to his principled politics.

6. Successfully maintained the longest running international Chicano theater for 51 years.

7. Founding director and professor of the Institute for Teledramatic Arts and Technology (TAT) at California State University of Monterey Bay, since 1995.

8. Founder of the Luis Valdez Leadership Academy, a Charter school in San José, California. Sharing history and helping teach young people that they can succeed is what he does best.

9. Never involved in a scandal or love triangle, Luis is still madly in love with his wife of nearly 50 years, Lupe Valdez. Gushing that every time he looks at her, in his eyes she's 24 all over again.

10. For decades now, maintains a tight inner-circle of talented colleagues; chief amongst them is Phillip Esparza, El Teatro Campesino managing director, and Luis' business partner, confidant, and spiritual brother. Their relationship has spanned some 45 years. Yes, Phil flew to Washington to see his hero and lifelong friend receive his well-deserved National Medal of the Arts award from the first African American President. What a thrill.

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