Zoot Suit Play Analysis Essay

Luis Valdez coined the term acto to describe a short play in which reality and performance are barely distinguishable—its performers are shown “in the act” of living as well as performing. His first acto was The Theft (wr. 1959), a symbolic one-act about the harassment and crucifixion of a beatnik. Later, stirred by social action plays he had seen on a 1964 visit to Cuba, Luis Valdez began writing actos as an organizer for Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers about the time of the 1965 Huelga (strike). Starting with the short “message” playlets, many of them broadly comic, performed outside by volunteer actors, he went on to organize El Teatro Campesino and to write more ambitious short plays such as Los vendidos (pr. 1967; the sellouts), an agitprop (agitation and propaganda) performance about intimidation and racial stereotyping, and Bernabe (pr. 1970). The latter, about man’s relationship to the earth, draws on the Chicano’s pre-Columbian heritage and introduces a zoot-suited pachuco as well.

Zoot Suit shares the legacy of modern protest drama, much of it propagandistic and leftist, extending from central Europe between the world wars to America during the Vietnam War era. The play’s influences range from the expressionist theater of Georg Kaiser and Ernst Toller to such antiwar efforts of the 1970’s as David Rabe’s The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel (pr. 1971), which also features a dark-skinned choral figure, brutal realism, free form, and an even more unrestricted treatment of time and events than Valdez attempts.

Zoot Suit is agitprop drama meant to depict social injustice as Bertolt Brecht’s plays did, making use of rapid scenes performed on a nearly empty stage where locations change swiftly, with little transition. While the play refers to incidents that occurred historically in the Los Angeles of the 1940’s, it seeks to combat the racial prejudice of any era. It depends to a great extent on the semi-documentary technique used by the “living newspapers” of the Depression; like them, Zoot Suit dramatizes injustice in order to educate and awaken responses, and it “reports” its story in fragmented scenes. Newspapers serve symbolically as furniture, as a drop curtain, even as laundry hanging on a barrio clothesline.

Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez

  • Length: 448 words (1.3 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - More ↓
“Zoot Suit”

Luis Valdez made a great contribution to Chicano theater when he created a Chicano musical a form of theater that was more common for white America. As I read Zoot Suit I could not stop wondering how the play would look once it was on stage. I could not picture a play that included singing and dancing one which does not compare to the other plays written by Luis Valdez and the Teatro Campesino. I only wish that I had been lucky enough to watch the play live. However, I do feel that if the play was to be re-enacted it would not have the same effect on it’s viewers of today as it might have then. Unfortunately I feel that might be its only downfall. I was still really amazed that this play made it to Broadway and I feel it was just as worthy of it as other plays have been. It is also very interesting to note that it was his longest running play in Los Angeles however; I am assuming that has to do with the large number of Mexican and Mexican-Americans living in LA during that time.

     I found the play very interesting and could not stop reading especially because I knew that the play was based on a true story a crime that actually took place against Chicanos. I did not know much about the sleepy lagoon case before I read the play. Having an interest on the subject helped me stay focus on the story and kept me reading. However, I kept wanting a stage visual of the play so that I could stay alert. As I watched the movie for the first time I felt great and yet, a bit bewildered to see so many brown faces on stage at the same time but ultimately I truly loved the feeling of it. I only wish that more plays or even movies would include Latinos onto the stage. I feel that the fact that Luis Valdez created a more American type of play made it more possible to be seen by many more people. If Zoot Suit would have been kept as an acto its audience would have been selective and minimal.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez." 123HelpMe.com. 13 Mar 2018
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=97681>.

LengthColor Rating 
Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez Essay - “Zoot Suit” Luis Valdez made a great contribution to Chicano theater when he created a Chicano musical a form of theater that was more common for white America. As I read Zoot Suit I could not stop wondering how the play would look once it was on stage. I could not picture a play that included singing and dancing one which does not compare to the other plays written by Luis Valdez and the Teatro Campesino. I only wish that I had been lucky enough to watch the play live. However, I do feel that if the play was to be re-enacted it would not have the same effect on it’s viewers of today as it might have then....   [tags: essays research papers]448 words
(1.3 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Zoot Suit Essay - Zoot Suit, a play written by Luis Valdez, depicts the racially charged trial of the Sleepy Lagoon Case of 1942 in which the courts charged a group of Pachucos with the murder of another Mexican-American. During the 1940s, many Mexican-Americans suffered widespread discrimination as dramatized in Zoot Suit. To combat such discrimination many Chicano youth wore stylized zoot suits, adorned with oversized jackets during fabric shortages as a form of social and political rebellion. Zoot Suiters felt disempowered by their position within society and used their fashion to send out a message and as a means to regain their masculinity....   [tags: Literary Analysis ]1117 words
(3.2 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Luis Valdez's Los Vendidos Essay - Luis Valdez's Los Vendidos Social science teaches that a person’s self identity is a reflection of that which other people put on the individual, in other words a person’s behavior steams more from what they see of themselves from someone else’s perspective and less from how they see themselves. In the case of the Mexicans, this concept holds true. From that, which has been studied thus far this semester, Mexicans/ Mexican Americans are good examples of this concept. Their sorted past has resulted in a new kind of Mexican American and perhaps a new kind of Mexican....   [tags: mexico Mexican Los Vendidos Essays]2027 words
(5.8 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
Essay about Luis Valdez's Play, Los Vendidos - In his play, "Los Vendidos," Luis Valdez addresses, through humor and stereotypes, the issues faced by Mexicans in America throughout history. Although a "White Washed Mexican" woman is supposedly looking for a Mexican, what she is actually looking for is an American with darker skin. The key word here is American, as she is looking for someone who has denied his or her Mexican roots and become acculturated to the American way of life. This woman does not want a Mexican for any other reason than the fact that he is Mexican, and she has no respect for his heritage....   [tags: Denial of Mexican Heritage]
:: 2 Works Cited
2009 words
(5.7 pages)
Term Papers[preview]
Essay about Luis Valdez's Los Venditos - Luis Valdez's Los Venditos "Los Venditos," which means "the sold out ones," is a play that was directed by Luis Valdez and produced by the Farm Workers Theatre of Atzlan. They have based their theatre society on the old drama clubs that were prevalent in the striker’s communities of the sixties and seventies. In these communities, actors and actresses would play roles that would make fun of certain groups or individuals that they were rebelling against. For example, if the produce pickers were striking against a grower, then the play would bring out every stereotype that person believed in or every bad quality that that person had and would embellish it....   [tags: Mexico Mexican Essays]
:: 3 Works Cited
1799 words
(5.1 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Essay on Luis Valdez's Los Vendidos - Luis Valdez's Los Vendidos "Los Vendidos," directed by Luis Valdez, is a remarkable play that looks into the historical struggles, stereotypes and challenges of Mexican Americans in a unique fashion. Rather than tell the history of Mexican Americans through documentaries and actual footage, the play conveys its message about the true history of Mexican Americans in the United States through both subtle and blatant techniques. Mexican American struggles in the United States date back to the Spanish discovery of the New World in 1492....   [tags: Mexican American History Essays]
:: 5 Works Cited
1683 words
(4.8 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
Essay Analysis of "Zoot Suit" - The book Zoot Suit has symbolic significance for Mexican Americans and tells about the riots during World War II. The Sleepy Lagoon Murder was one step in the fight for the rights and respect of Mexican American's. This riot involved young servicemen and civilians who clashed in the streets of the city with young Mexican Americans who wore the noticeable "Zoot Suit." At their height, the riots involved several thousand men and women. In the end no one was killed and only a few were injured but even today, the Zoot Suit riots are remembered for their significance....   [tags: Book Reviews]1136 words
(3.2 pages)
Good Essays[preview]
Zoot Suit Riots Essay -      Zoot suits, associated with the Mexican race, consisted of a long jacket that reached almost to the knees, pants with a “tight stuff cuff”, a “wide, flat hat, and Dutch-toe shoes” (Berger 193). These zoot suits were worn by the Mexican youth who were accused of murder on August 2, 1942. People claimed that Jose Diaz was murdered by a gang that had broken up a party at Sleepy Lagoon ranch located close to Los Angeles. However, even though the lower court did convict them of murder, two years later the district court of appeals took that decision back by stating that there was not enough good evidence and that most of that decision was made based on prejudice issues....   [tags: American History Sleepy Lagoon Affair]622 words
(1.8 pages)
Good Essays[preview]
Luis Valdez's Los Vendidos Essay example - Luis Valdez's Los Vendidos "Los Vendidos," which translates from the literal Spanish to "The Sold Ones" or a more appropriate translation of the title is "The Sell Outs." This is a satiric play written by Luis Valdez and performed by "El Teatro Campesino," which translates into "The Farmworkers’ Theater." El Teatro Campesino, founded by Luis Valdez in 1965, was a group of California farmworkers who put together "Actos," or "Skits." These "Actos" were made mainly to entertain "striking farmworkers, support them in their marches, and attract public attention to their strikes and organization" (http://www.pbs.org/chicano/bios/lvaldez.html)....   [tags: History Historical Los Vendidos essays]1862 words
(5.3 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
Essay on Los Vendidos, Produced by Luis Valdez - For centuries, the Mexican-American experience has been one of adversity and endurance. The plight of these native peoples has been ignored and many times erased from the American conscience. They have struggled for acknowledgment, they have fought for equality and they have gone to battle for respect. Luis Valdez’s play, Los Vendidos, is just one of many contributions to this effort. A powerfully moving play, Los Vendidos, or the "sell-outs", is a piece created to gain acknowledgement, heighten awareness and to create a sense of camaraderie amongst the people fighting in the Chicano Movement of the late 1960’s and 70’s....   [tags: Mexican-American Experience]
:: 2 Works Cited
2203 words
(6.3 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]

Related Searches

Zoot Suit         Luis Valdez         Los Angeles         True Story         Chicano         Broadway         Feeling        




Overall I really enjoyed reading and watching the play. By being able to see how a play is supposed to look on stage I was given a greater understanding of the characters. Even though I believe that if the play were to be re-enacted today it will not have the same turn out or popularity but I believe that it will still continue to be a valuable play for the Chicano community and a wonder to watch.



One thought on “Zoot Suit Play Analysis Essay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *