THE HISTORY OF
SAN JOSÉ, CA – Regarded as one of the most important and influential American playwrights living today, LUIS VALDEZ, founder of the OBIE Award winning Company, EL TEATRO CAMPESINO, is standing on the spot light of the theatrical world again with his new play,“Valley of the Hearts,” which in exclusive interview with CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL he describes as: “A love story of a Japanese/American girl and a Mexican/American boy, that may also be considered a piece of history, “a memory,” because the story teller, Benjamín, tells it in the year 200l, or autobiographical because it is about my life and the lives of people I have known for many years."
“The context of the play is World War II (l941) when after “Pearl Harbor,” all the Japanese-Americans were incarcerated in concentration camps scattered all across the country, from California to Arkansas.”
“My play takes place in “THE VALLEY OF THE HEARTS DELIGHT” (As Silicon Valley was called at that time) and it is the story of these two lovers: Thelma Yamaguchi, the daughter of this first-generation Japanese-American farmer in the Santa Clara Valley, who farms strawberries and broccoli, and her lover, Benjamín Montaño, the oldest son of a Mexican-American farmer. Against the wishes of their parents, they fall in love.”
“So, from “THE VALLEY OF THE HEARTS DELIGHT” after “Pearl Harbor” (And after WAR had been declared between the United States and Japan and many Americans feel hatred for the Japanese people). “The Yamaguchi family is sent to HEART’S MOUNTAIN in Wyoming, now a museum, where about ten thousand Japanese-Americans were incarcerated during the years l941 to l945. That is the mayor part of the story.”
“How the story of the play relates with my family, is that in l941, my father, who was a farmer, was hired by the U.S. Army to run a ranch that belonged to a Japanese-American farmer. So my father spend the War, farming for the War effort, whatever the U.S. Army requested him to farm.”
“ I was born in l940, so my first memories in life are living on that ranch, that I thought belonged to my father. But, after the War, there were no more Army Farm Tracks, and it turned out that my father did not own the ranch. He had leased from the army. So, when the lease was terminated, we loss the ranch and have to hit the migrant path again. And since they have been farming before, in l946 they went back to the road. "
"We came to San José where my parents had farmed in the thirties, and for the next ten years we worked in the fields, coming and going. So, in a sense, in a play I am dealing with that aspect of my dad’s history”
“Another part of my life related to the play is that in l947, I had a friend, which I knew very briefly, but impacted my life. His father was Mexican-American and his mother was Japanese-American, His mother was a wonderful cook and she will cook us Mexican food or Japanese food. That was my first introduction to food that was not Mexican. I was entranced by the experience and never forgot it. My friend's mother’s name was Thelma and his father’s name, was Benjamin. I used their names in my play.”
It is a well-known fact that many of the previous plays written by playwright LUIS VALDEZ are relevant to historical facts and “VALLEY Of the HEART” is no exception. He explains to us the relation in his own words:
“The (people) attitude in VALLEY of the HEART is not different that the (people) attitude we see now with the Muslin-Americans,” he says. "When leading politicians criticize and talk with hatred against any group of Americans or any group of human beings around the world, they are violating the basic beliefs of this country.”
THE SAN JOSE STAGE COMPANY in PARNERSHIP WITH EL TEATRO CAMPESINO WILL PRESENT THE WORLD PREMIERE OF VALLEY OF THE HEART on February 13 at 8P.M.
With the premier of “THE VALLEY of the HEART,” in San José, Playwright LUIS VALDEZ completes his professional circle. In l965, when he was an English/Playwriting student of San Jose State College (now State University), VALDEZ presented and Directed his first full-length play: "The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa", a Theater of the Absurd piece, at The Studio Theatre at San Jose State. Fifty years later, he returns to the City to Direct and premier his new play.