I first met Octavio when I was an Assistant Director on Pastures of Heaven, an adaptation of the John Stienbeck novel that Octavio wrote for the California Shakespeare Theatre in 2010. We bonded over music, art and a hunger to learn new things. Octavio became a mentor, and I may be so bold to say, a friend. Even when I moved away from the Bay Area to go to grad school in San Diego, I looked forward to meeting up with him on my trips back to San Francisco. Octavio is one of those rare people who can completely disarm you with his openness and honesty. His ability to observe and absorb life is also startling. I remember walking down a street with him in the Mission District of San Francisco as he pointed out things in shop windows that had completely escaped my attention: an old jukebox hidden as decoration in a clothing store, a little metal heart leaning on a shelf in a bookstore. Whenever I speak to him, I feel seen, I feel heard.
Many of Octavio’s plays are threaded with magic, humor and raw intensity. His play Lydia, which centers around a girl who is an a vegetative state, her caretaker, and her family, maintains a poetic hopefulness through the conflict. Octavio does not shy away from the dark flaws of humanity; but, he also infuses each piece with the same generosity and wonder that he embodies as a person.
When I realized that I needed to adapt The Cherry Orchard to accomplish my goals in my community, I immediately thought of Octavio. Not only has he moved to Southern Oregon just across the border from my home-town, but he has long held a deep respect for rural life. His adaptation of Pastures of Heavendemonstrated that he could carve a complicated and rich portrait of a small community and also that he could pull from classic material and make it his own. Most importantly, I trust him as a person. I know he’ll approach the people in my community with curiosity, warmth and respect. He is also highly accomplished and well established in the theatre community (see bio below) and will be a good balance to my youth and idealism.
When Octavio agreed to do the project, it was one of those moments when the body becomes flooded with joy and everything in the world becomes warmer, kinder, and suddenly within reach. We still have a long journey before us, but having Octavio as a partner makes me excited to walk that path.
Octavio’s works Se Llama Cristina, John Steinbeck’s The Pastures of Heaven, Ghosts of the River, Quixote, Lydia, June in a Box, Lethe, Marfa Lights, Gibraltar, The Ballad of Pancho and Lucy, The 7 Visions of Encarnación, Bethlehem, Dreamlandia, El Otro,Man of the Flesh, Prospect, El Paso Blue, Santos & Santos, and La Posada Mágica have been mounted at the California Shakespeare Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Yale Repertory Theatre, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Dallas Theater Center, the Magic Theatre, Intersection for the Arts, South Coast Repertory Theatre, the San Diego Repertory Theatre, the San Jose Repertory Theatre, Shadowlight Productions, the Venture Theatre in Philadelphia, Latino Chicago Theatre Company, Boston Court and Kitchen Dog Theatre, the New York Summer Play Festival, Teatro Vista in Chicago, El Teatro Campesino, the Undermain Theatre in Dallas, Thick Description, Campo Santo, the Imua Theatre Company in New York, and Cornerstone Theatre. His collaborative works include Cloudlands, with Music by Adam Gwon, Burning Dreams, cowritten with Julie Hebert and Gina Leishman and Shiner, written with Erik Ehn. Solis has received an NEA 1995-97 Playwriting Fellowship, the Roger L. Stevens award from the Kennedy Center, the Will Glickman Playwright Award, a production grant from the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays, the 1998 TCG/NEA Theatre Artists in Residence Grant, the 1998 McKnight Fellowship grant from the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis, and the National Latino Playwriting Award for 2003. He is the recipient of the 2000-2001 National Theatre Artists Residency Grant from TCG and the Pew Charitable Trust. He has also just been awarded a United States Artists Fellowship for 20012. Solis is a Thornton Wilder Fellow for the MacDowell Colony, New Dramatists alum and member of the Dramatists Guild.
His new anthology, “The River Plays” has been published by NoPassPort Publishing. He is working on commissions for the Magic Theatre SF and Yale Repertory Theatre.