Playwright and Director Luis Valdez Presents Keynote Lecture “The Power of Zero” on November 18

Luis Valdez, Photo by Juan David Correa

The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies at UC Berkeley along with its co-sponsoring partners of the Departments of Ethnic Studies, English and the Chicana/Latino Student Development Office, will host “The Power of Zero,” a keynote lecture by internationally recognized playwright and director Luis Valdez on Tuesday, November 18th at 5:00pm in Zellerbach Playhouse.

Best known as the founder and long-time artistic director of El Teatro Campesino, Mr. Valdez is recipient of the prestigious UC Regent’s Lectureship for his local and global contributions to the arts.

From the central valley of California, El Teatro Campesino became a major force in the transformation of American theater of the 20th century. Born out of the Chicano civil rights movement, the work of Luis Valdez extends for half of a century in the formation of a local and continental philosophy of cultural expression and activism.

As El Teatro Campesino prepares for its 50th anniversary in 2015, this is an extraordinary opportunity for the Berkeley campus and the Bay Area community to hear from and interact with Mr. Valdez. We honor his vital contributions to the arts in our region and worldwide.


An award-winning producer and theater artist, Valdez earned an Obie, the Presidential Medal of the Arts and his induction into the College of Fellows of the American Theater at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In 1994, Valdez was honored with the Orden Mexicana del Aguila Azteca,(Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle), the highest decoration granted by the Mexican government to foreign nationals. Valdez’s acclamations also include honorary doctorates at over five universities and colleges in the US, the Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature, several Los Angeles Drama Critics Awards, an Emmy for directing, a San Francisco Bay Critics Circle Award, and the California Governor’s Award, among others.

Central to his work as director of El Teatro Campesino, Valdez writes the stories of the life and labor of not only farmworkers, but also urban youth, the poor and working middle class. In his landmark play, Zoot Suit, Valdez dramatized the true story of Chicano youth framed in the 1942 murder trials of Sleepy Lagoon and the Zoot Suit Riots that followed in the city of Los Angeles. Zoot Suit became the first Chicano play to be staged on Broadway. As Sean San José of Campo Santo Theater Company said, “If you want to understand modern Latino theater, you have to know that Luis was the start. Everything that came after him was informed by him.”

Valdez’s most recent production of Valley of the Heart (2013) was entirely sold out within weeks of its announcement, drawing audiences from across the country to the El Teatro Campesino home in the small town of San Juan Bautista. Currently, Valdez is developing work on the most pressing issues of our time in climate change and global warming with the city of Monterey, California.


Initially using theater to raise consciousness among farm workers during the Delano grape strike of 1965, El Teatro Campesino created improvisational works called actos, or short sketches that were performed on the picket lines, at rallies and at organizing events to support the farmworker’s movement. The actos brought attention to the exploitation of workers in the fields in a theater by and for farmworkers. It exposed the dynamics of the agricultural industry and law enforcement corruption in a theater imbued with humor and creativity. Their work continued through dozens of original staged productions, trainings and the development of a philosophy of Chicano theater based on a genealogy of Mayan and Aztec world-view and performance, community and intergenerational kinship. The work of El Teatro Campesino catalyzed the Chicano Power Movement of the 1960s and 70s, and has continued to inspire generations of theater practitioners dedicated to theater of political and social change.


The purpose of Regent’s Lectureship is to bring to the University distinguished persons whose careers in arts, letters, sciences, or business have been substantially outside the academic profession. This prestigious award has honored distinguished speakers such as James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Sandra Day O’Connor. For more information about the UC Regent’s Lecture Fellowship contact Yasya Goretsky, (510) 642-7742 or


The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies teaches performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression and public engagement. Through performance training and research, we create liberal arts graduates with expanded analytical, technical and imaginative capacities. As a public institution, we make diversity and inclusion a key part of our teaching, art making and public programming.

This event is co-sponsored by Alianza; Chicano Latino Studies Program/Ethnic Studies Department; Performance Colectiva and UC Teatro; Department of English; Center for Latino Policy Research; Center for Latin American Studies; Ethnic Studies Library; Queer Transgender Advocacy Project, Graduate Assembly; Graduate Minority Outreach, Recruitment and Retention Project, Graduate Assembly; Multicultural Community Center, Multicultural Student Development – Chicana Latino Student Development, Asian Pacific American Student Development, African American Student Development, Cross Cultural Student Development, Native American Student Development; Arts Research Center, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair, and Latinos Unidos de Berkeley.

Patrons with special accommodation needs or questions may contact our ticket services manager at 510-642-8827 or at least one week before your visit. All TDPS performance venues are wheelchair-accessible. Service animals are allowed in our venues. Please see for more information.


Professor Angela Marino at, or (347) 622-9263.
Marni Davis, Communications and Development Manager at or (510)-642-9925


Luis Valdez Regents Lecture, “The Power of Zero”
Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 5:00pm.
Zellerbach Playhouse, UC Berkeley campus
Admission is free. Event is open to the public.