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"The Farmworker's Theatre"

Award-winning theatre company located in San Juan Bautista, California, dedicated creating new works and developing talent that showcase Chicano and Latino perspectives on America. It was founded by Luis Valdez during the Great Delano Grape Strike in 1965. About a month into the strike, Valdez got some union volunteers to do a skit about two huelgistas (strikers) yelling at an esquirol (scab). Soon Valdez was entertaining striking fieldworkers in meeting halls, strike camps, and fields, with short comic sketches he called actos (acts), often staging performances on the back of a flatbed truck. The actos combined Brechtian agitprop and commedia dell arte (Valdez had worked with the San Francisco Mime Troupe and the Bread and Puppet Theatre) with the local folk culture of the mostly Mexican strikers. The company won an Obie Award in 1968.

In 1971, Valdez moved the company to San Juan Bautista and began exploring pre-Colombian culture in mitos (myths), religious performances that drew upon Mayan ritual. Working with Peter Brook, and his International Centre of Theater Research, the company toured internationally. In the 1970s, the company began to develop another form, the corrido (ballad), staging many of the traditional Mexican ballads. Zoot Suit (1978) was the best known, becoming the first play by a Hispanic playwright to reach Broadway (it became a movie in 1981). The company continues to produce new work at its home in San Juan Bautista.

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