Valley of the Heart (play)
Play by Luis Valdez centered on two farm families—one Japanese American and one Mexican American—in Cupertino, California, during World War II.
The Yamaguchis— Issei Ichiro and Hana with Nisei children Joe Yoshi and Thelma Teruko—have a successful family farm in Santa Clara County, California. The land is registered in the name of Joe, a student at the University of California. They rent part of their land to the Montaños—Mexican immigrants Cayetano and Paula and their children Benjamin, Ernesto Tito, and Maruca—who live next door but struggle to get by. While the Yamaguchis have arranged a marriage for Thelma with a college friend of Joe's, she and Ben are engaged in a furtive romance that both know their families would disapprove of. The attack on Pearl Harbor upends both households, as Ichiro is immediately interned, and the young men grapple with whether to enlist. After chasing away nightriders who are harassing Thelma at the house, Ben and Thelma engage in a night of passion, resulting in a pregnancy and elopement. Ben grapples with his new responsibilities as a husband and father—and also the caretaker of the farm while the Yamaguchis are forcibly removed to the Pomona Assembly Center and Heart Mountain , Wyoming, concentration camp—as the events of the war bring about major changes to both families.
Originally subtitled a "kabuki corrido," Valley of the Heart incorporates kuroko (black garbed masked stagehands) from classical Japanese theater as well as a musical score that blends Mexican and Japanese folk music featuring Noe Yaocaotl Montoya of El Teatro Campesino and PJ and Roy Hirabayashi of San Jose Taiko.
Playwright and director Luis Valdez was the founding artistic director of El Teatro Campesino, founded in 1965 to dramatize the plight of California farmworkers in support of the work of the United Farmworkers Union and has been based in San Juan Bautista since 1971.He is best known as the playwright of the plays Zoot Suit and La Bamba . Valley of the Heart was his first new play in thirteen years. Valdez's father had worked for a Japanese American farmer prior to the war and tended to that farm while the family was incarcerated during the war. The play was inspired in part by a friend whose father Benjamin was Mexican American and whose mother Thelma was Japanese American.
Valley of the Heart began as a workshop production at El Teatro Campesino in 2013 had its world premiere at the San Jose Stage Company in 2016 (February 10 to March 20). It came to the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles for a run from October 9 to December 9, 2018.
For More Information
McNulty, Charles. " Review: Luis Valdez's 'Valley of the Heart' Shares an Immigrant Story from California's Past ," Los Angeles Times , Nov. 9, 2018. ["The play resembles at times a graphic novel brought to the stage. The characters and the dialogue have all the realism of a historical cartoon. But what is lost in the subtlety of detail is partly gained in breadth of perspective."]
Pawal, Miriam. " Luis Valdez's 'Valley of the Heart': It Ought to Play L.A. " Los Angeles Times , Oct. 27, 2013.
Soto, Erin Yasuda. "Love Story at the Center of 'Valley of the Heart.'" Nichi Bei Weekly , Oct. 2–15, 2014, 8, 15.
" 'Valley of the Heart' Tells Story of Japanese, Mexican Immigrant Farming Families ." Rafu Shimpo , Sept. 5, 2013.
D'Souza, Karen. " Valley of the Heart Lures Bay Area Fans ." San Jose Mercury News , September 29, 2014.
———. " Review: Luis Valdez' 'Valley of the Heart' Gets Powerful if Imperfect Premiere at San Jose Stage Company ," San Jose Mercury News, Feb. 15, 2016. ["If this unwieldy epic falters under the weight of its own heroic ambitions, there’s no denying the compelling nature of this deeply-impassioned political narrative."]