The History of Chicana/o Theater: Zoot Suit

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Jorge Huerta

May 15, 2024 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

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Jorge Huerta event

Isla Vista Arts will host renowned Chicana/o theater scholar Professor Jorge Huerta (UC San Diego) for a lecture on the history of Chicana/o theater leading up to the monumental 1978 play Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez.

Professor Huerta will contextualize the play within the history of the Zoot suit, a fashionable cut of suit worn by Chicano men in the 1930s and 1940s, and the “Sleepy Lagoon” murder trial 1942. The trial rapt the nation’s attention and nourished racial prejudices against Latinos. The defendants, seventeen young Chicano men, were denied access to their attorneys, mischaracterized as innately violent by the Los Angeles Sheriff, and dehumanized throughout the proceedings. Their imputed infamy was connected in the American popular imagination with Zoot suits. The jury convicted them all of murder. Two years later, their convictions were overturned.

The trial’s sensationalism stoked the aggression of Navy servicemen toward “Zoot Suiters.” Zoot suits were sumptuously voluminous, a visual violation of war-time conventions of austerity. “The Zoot Suit Riots” were a series of violent acts by US servicemen, mostly members of the Navy, who ranged through East Los Angeles in June of 1943 while assaulting Zoot Suiters.

Chicano activist and playwright Luis Valdez dramatized the interweaving threads of the Sleepy Lagoon trial, the Zoot Suit riots, and the subsequent exoneration of all those convicted. Professor Huerta will explain the significance of the play to the Chicano theater movement.

Professor Huerta’s visit and lecture are occasioned by UCSB’s upcoming production of Zoot Suit on May 18 and May 19 in UCSB’s Hatlen Theater. Isla Vista Arts, a project of the IHC, has assisted Zoot Suit’s student directors, Angel Diaz and Mayra Gomez-Labrada in realizing their theatrical vision, as part of its mission to expand the cultural impact of the arts in the campus community.

Sponsored by the IHC, Isla Vista Arts, and UCSB’s Global Latinidades Project


May 15, 2024
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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(805) 893-4809
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