Composer Daniel Valdez and El Teatro Campesino developed, workshopped, and premiered Canción De San Juan: Oratorio of a Small Town, a multimedia work performed in a theatrical format. Based on ethnographic research and interviews with community members, and developed over the course of two years, the work told the story of San Juan Bautista, California, a town of 1,500 that has transformed over 300 years from a Native American village to a Spanish colonial mission establishment, to a Mexican military state capitol, to an American frontier outpost, to an industrial age ghost town, and to a small, suburban tourist hamlet on the fringes of Silicon Valley. The piece may be presented annually during “El Día de San Juan,” the saint’s day festival celebrating the founding of the Old Mission in the heart of the town.
El Teatro Campesino—the Farmworkers Theater—was founded 44 years ago and has been based in San Juan Bautista since 1971. Dedicated to using arts to generate social change, it has pioneered many theatrical forms and practices based on the cultural traditions of ancient America and colonial Mexico. Daniel Valdez began his career, using music to spread the message of the United Farm Workers through songs and narratives. He’s a professional theater director, actor, playwright, composer, musician, and film producer with more than 35 years of experience in music, theater, and film.
While Daniel Valdez had previously developed song cycles based on historic materials, this was the first time that he created a piece combining music, narrative, and video to enhance a theatrical work; and to tell this particular “rich history that we all share and cherish.”