By Mimi Pollack
It couldn’t always have been easy growing up as part of “Chicano theatre royalty” or a Latino dynasty, yet Lakin Valdez, son of Luis and Lupe Valdez, comes across with ease and grace. The youngest of three brothers, all of them working in various aspects of theater, film, and television, Lakin is unassuming, smart and thoughtful.
He glowed with pride when talking about his older brothers, Kinan and Anahuac. He was aware of the legacy he is following as the son of Luis Valdez, the man who founded El Teatro Campesino, wrote and directed “Zoot Suit” and directed “La Bamba.” It is obvious that the Valdez clan is very close, and they take pride in each other’s accomplishments.
Lakin had an unusual childhood as he grew up traveling around the country with a large group of Latino community artists committed to social change. He was even born on the same day his father finished writing “Zoot Suit.” Throughout his life, he has been surrounded by artists.
Lakin wryly observed that the performance troupe Culture Clash had played roles in his father’s productions, and now he was playing roles in their productions, such as “El Henry,” written by Herbert Siguenza.
This is the second time Lakin will appear in a San Diego Repertory Theatre production. Last summer he starred in “El Henry.” This time, he will star in “Oedipus, El Rey,” a new play, written by acclaimed playwright Luis Alfaro and directed by Sam Woodhouse, that will run March 7 through March 29 at the Lyceum Theatre. In both plays, his role was and is that of the prodigal or anointed son coming home and struggling with his destiny.
In real life though, Lakin doesn’t seem to struggle at all. He is grateful for every opportunity and takes pride in all that he has done.
He has worked as an actor, writer, and director. He served as El Teatro Campesino’s associate artistic director from the years 2000-2005. Since 2004, he has written, directed and performed in over a dozen plays, culminating in work that reflects the rich history and vibrant culture of the Latino/Chicano community. He is the recipient of two NPN Creation Fund awards, a Zellerbach award, and an NEA Access to Excellence award for his generative work. As a stage actor, he has performed with Campo Santo, San Jose Rep, San Diego Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, Goodman Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, Magic Theatre, L.A. Theatre Works and El Teatro Campesino.
“Oedipus, El Rey” is Alfaro’s vision of the Greek classic, blending Greek mysticism, Mexican ritual and Southern California’s barrio culture. Lakin commented that Alfaro’s talent is in giving new meaning to something relegated to the past, and making it relevant now. Lakin confided that it was a way of taking a classic and transforming it into a modern play of youth and hubris, of young men of color looking for opportunity and options and finding none, unless they can transcend their fate. Of course, it is also a play about the passionate love of a mother and son and promises to be a performance full of tension, desire and eroticism.
It is a role that Lakin was born to play with his natural sensuality and social consciousness.
Mimi Pollack is an ESL teacher and a freelance writer.