ZootSuitWEB

A New American Play Written by Luis Valdez

Website Created by Pomona College Department of Theatre & Dance

How to use this Discovery Guide

This discovery guide is your road map to understanding and interpreting Zoot Suit, the live performance and/or published text. This play is based on two infamous yet important events in Los Angeles history, the 1942 Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial and the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots.

In this guide you will find key facts, dates, maps, photographs, vocabulary words, character profiles, original letters written from prison, newspaper articles of the era and other information relevant to the time period and events. After reviewing this guide you will be better equipped to understand this contentious period in Los Angeles history and how playwright Luis Valdez re-envisioned these dark events as pinnacles of Chicano unity, empowerment and pride.

Vocabulary words, important people, events, and characters can be accessed by clicking on the words in bold type.

Alice McGrath and Sleepy Lagoon defendants in Chino, CA 1944. (Contributing Institution: Dept. of Special Collections/UCLA Library)

Alice McGrath and Sleepy Lagoon defendants in Chino, CA 1944. (Contributing Institution: Dept. of Special Collections/UCLA Library)

Objectives of the Discovery Guide

  • Appreciate theatre as a tool for social justice.
  • Acknowledge how theatre is used to critique, understand and interpret history.
  • Gain cultural insight into Pachuco and Pachuca identity and history in the 1940s.
  • Explore the history and impact of intolerance against Mexican Americans in Los Angeles and across the United States during the 1940s.
  • Understand the significance of these events to the Chicano experience in Los Angeles and the United States.
  • Open communication and learn from elders in your community who lived through this period.

Discussion Points

To initiate discussion encompassing the themes of the Discovery Guide, we have created discussion points for your use.

Teaching Curriculum

Dr. Janet Johns has created an indepth teaching curriculum that focuses on grade level speakers of other languages and monolingual English speaking middle through high school students.