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Luis Valdez’s ‘Valley of the Heart’ to Open at Mark Taper Forum

Melanie Arii Mah and Lakin Valdez are star-crossed lovers in Luis Valdez’s “Valley of the Heart.”

Rehearsal have begun for Center Theatre Group’s production of “Valley of the Heart,” which is written and directed by Luis Valdez (“Zoot Suit”).

Presented in association with El Teatro Campesino, the production will play at the Mark Taper Forum from Oct. 30 through Dec. 9. The opening will be on Wednesday, Nov. 7.

The cast includes, in alphabetical order, Mariela Arteaga, Moises Castro, Melanie Arii Mah, Theresa Murray, Randall Nakano, Joy Osmanski, Rose Portillo, Christy Sandoval, Scott Keiji Takeda, Daniel Valdez and Lakin Valdez. Derek Mio will no longer be part of the production as previously announced; Justin Chien will now play the role of Joe “Yoshi” Yamaguchi.

The creative team includes set design by John Iacovelli, costume design by Lupe Valdez, lighting design by Pablo Santiago, projection design by David Murakami and sound design by Philip G. Allen. The production stage manager is David S. Franklin.

The fight to maintain dignity, identity, family and faith are at the heart of this American story deeply rooted in the once-fertile farmland that is now known as the Silicon Valley. “Valley of the Heart” tells the story of the Yamaguchis and the Montaños, two immigrant families struggling to provide a future for their American-born children after the Great Depression on the farmland the two families share.

The families’ oldest children secretly fall in love only to have the emotional stakes further heightened when the attack on Pearl Harbor throws these Mexican and Japanese American families into uncertainty.

When the Yamaguchis are incarcerated along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, allegiances are tested, heroes are made, and the two young lovers must find a way to stay loyal to their families, their country and each other.

“If you take the Japanese American experience and contrast it with the Mexican American experience, what ties them together is the American experience,” said Valdez.

Valdez’s screen credits include “Zoot Suit” (featuring Edward James Olmos), “La Bamba” (starring Lou Diamond Phillips), “The Cisco Kid” (featuring Jimmy Smits and Cheech Marin) and “Corridos: Tales of Passion and Revolution” (with Linda Ronstadt).

Honors include LA Drama Critic Circle Awards, Bay Area Critics Awards, the George Peabody Award for excellence in television, the Presidential Medal of the Arts, the Governor’s Award from the California Arts Council, and Mexico’s prestigious Aguila Azteca Award given to individuals whose work promotes cultural excellence and exchange between the U.S. and Mexico.

He was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Theatre at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. In 2007, he was awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship as one of the 50 U.S. artists so honored across the U.S. Valdez was recently inducted into the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences as a director.

From left: (back row) writer/director Luis Valdez, Moises Castro, Christy Sandoval, Lakin Valdez, Melanie Arii Mah, Justin Chien, Scott Keiji Takeda, associate director Kinan Valdez; (front row) Mariela Arteaga, Rose Portillo, Daniel Valdez, Randall Nakano, Joy Osmanski and Theresa Murray at a rehearsal for the Center Theatre Group production of Luis Valdez’s “Valley of the Heart.” (Photo © 2018 by Craig Schwartz)

Center Theatre Group, one of the nation’s pre-eminent arts and cultural organizations, is Los Angeles’ leading nonprofit theater company, which, under Artistic Director Michael Ritchie, programs seasons at the 736-seat Mark Taper Forum and 1,600 to 2,000-seat Ahmanson Theatre at The Music Center in Downtown Los Angeles, and the 317-seat Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.

In addition to presenting and producing the broadest range of theatrical entertainment in the country, Center Theatre Group is one of the nation’s leading producers of ambitious new works through commissions and world premiere productions and a leader in interactive community engagement and education programs that reach across generations, demographics and circumstance to serve Los Angeles.

Tickets are available online at, by calling Audience Services at (213) 628-2772 or in person at the Center Theatre Group Box Office (at the Ahmanson Theatre). Tickets range from $30 to $99 (prices are subject to change). The Mark Taper Forum is located at 135 N. Grand Ave.

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