De Tavira expressed immediate interest, and the wheels began turning for a full staging in Spanish. It's no easy task in any language. "Zoot Suit" requires a large, physically agile cast, with many roles requiring singing or dancing in genres such as mambo and swing.
The play also serves as a milestone on a long journey for Luis Valdez, now 70. The playwright, director and filmmaker is a native of California's Central Valley and founder of the Teatro Campesino, the agitprop performance arm of the United Farm Workers movement led by Cesar Chavez.
Valdez still expresses indignation over what he calls a "lockout" of a "Zoot Suit" revival in Los Angeles. (He directed the film version of "Zoot Suit" in 1981 and the biopic of musician Ritchie Valens, "La Bamba," in 1986, but he has not made a major studio-produced film since.)
"They really ignore what's going on in the Latino theater," Valdez said.
Yet in Mexico he is referred to as "maestro," a term of deep respect that is not used lightly. Staging his play in Mexico City, Valdez said, and watching it unfold in Spanish, is particularly moving for him.