Five Questions with Playwright Octavio Solis

Tania Thompson
 | Aug 25, 2020
Octavio Solis
​Octavio Solis and one of his "kids."

About Octavio Solis

He is known as one of the nation’s most prominent Latino playwrights. His works include Mother Road, Quixote Nuevo, Se Llama Cristina, Lydia, The Ballad of Pancho and Lucy, The 7 Visions of Encarnación, Man of the Flesh, Santos & Santos and La Posada Mágica. His plays have been mounted at dozens of theatres including Mark Taper Forum, Yale Repertory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Dallas Theater Center and at South Coast Repertory. His relationship with SCR dates back more than three decades to Man of the Flesh (1990) and, most recently, as bookwriter and lyricist for Cloudlands in collaboration with Adam Gwon (2012). His plays have been read in SCR’s Hispanic Playwrights Project and the Pacific Playwrights Festival. Among his many honors, Solis has received National Endowment for the Arts Playwriting Fellowships (1995-97), the Will Glickman Playwright Award, the National Latino Playwriting Award (2003) and a Pen Center/USA Award for Drama (2014). Solis is a Thornton Wilder Fellow for the MacDowell Colony and is working on commissions for Arena Stage, San Francisco Playhouse and South Coast Repertory. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed ​book Retablos: Stories from a Life Lived Along the Border.

Playwright Octavio Solis is best-known to South Coast Repertory audiences for La Posada Mágica, which ran for 15 holiday seasons. But did you know that he and his wife, Jeanne Sexton—former legal counsel for GATX Capital, live on a farm in southern Oregon?

They’ll talk about playwriting, the rural life of raising chickens and goats, and the couple’s venture in making goat cheese ​during a live YouTube conversation on Monday, Aug. 31, at 5:30 p.m. ​The couple will be interviewed by Juliette Carrillo as part of the SCR commUNITY series.

Solis’ relationship with SCR dates back more than three decades ​to Man of the Flesh (1990) and, most recently, as book writer and lyricist for Cloudlands with Adam Gwon (2012). His plays were read in both SCR’s Hispanic Playwrights Project and the Pacific Playwrights Festival.

Sometimes, after a day of writing in his office on the farm, he sometimes sips a glass of bourbon—neat or on the rocks—to reflect back on the day. We caught up with him from a distance and checked in on a few subjects.

What was the first play you ever saw—and why do you remember it?

The first play I ever saw was a high school production of The Diary of Anne Frank. I had been cast in it and really didn’t understand the concept of theatre that well. The first professional production I ever saw was A Chorus Line. It was the touring company putting it on in San Antonio, Texas, right as my freshman year was beginning. It was startling and beautiful and I had never seen anything like that before in my life. But I kept thinking, wait, this was the guy who also composed the soundtrack for The Sting?!

Why is South Coast Repertory important to you?

South Coast Rep offered me my first truly regional theatre debut with Man of the Flesh in 1990. I have continued to work with that theatre throughout my career, and I regard them as family.

What are you reading right now?

I am reading “Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks, a remarkable novel based on a true story about an entire village in 1666 that quarantined itself from the outside world once the townspeople realized they were overrun with the plague. The horrors of that contagion are nothing to the current pandemic we are living through, but there are important lessons in the novel that we can learn from. It’s simply a remarkable story.

What’s your go-to summer drink?

We’ve been enjoying these lavender vodka martinis in the late afternoons, when it’s still blazing hot. But at night, after a session with my characters, I savor my bourbon, neat or on the rocks.

Which animal on your farm has the most personality?

Pachamama, our youngest goat, is about five-and-a-half months old and she is a sweet, loving beast that always wants to be held. She’s curious and playful, but already wary of being butted by the older jealous goats. She’ll fall asleep on your lap if you let her. She’s practically a dog! And she has a beauty mark on her left cheek. She’s quite saucy.

RSVP now to watch a live interview with Octavio Solis on Monday, Aug. 31, at 5:30 p.m. Viewers will have an opportunity to submit questions. This YouTube event is part of SCR commUNITY and is free, but RSVPs are required. A recording of the interview will be available to watch after the livestream, through Sept. 6, 2020.