The long awaited Northwest Premiere of Lydia is finally here! We sat down with playwright Octavio Solis to discuss the inception of this poetic drama.
What was going on in your life in 2008 that made you write this play?
It was commissioned by The Denver Center in 2007. I was connected with several theatres at the time and I was actually working on Lydia and an adaptation of Don Quixote at the exact same time.
I started writing Lydia in December 2007 and I gave myself a deadline of five pages a day. It couldn’t be more and it couldn’t’ be less. If I wrote seven on one day, I couldn’t cheat and write only three the next day. In two weeks I had 70+ pages. I gave myself a Christmas holiday but on the 26th I was back to work. And it was finished shortly after the New Year. In February I hand delivered Lydia to Bruce Sevy at the Denver Center and they loved it. They gave me a workshop of the play that summer in Steamboat Springs Colorado, it was an easy decision to choose Juliette Carrillo to direct the workshop and the original production at the Denver Center. It was there that a lot of the actors for the production were cemented, it was a wonderful, tight cast.
Why set Lydia in the 1970s?
Because that is when I came of age. Our first important works are often a reflection of when we came of age, the years between the age of 14 and 16 are when we are learning how the world works.
How much of the story is drawn from your own experience in El Paso?
It’s not about my family but it’s about elements of my life growing up. Elements in my life that are common in a lot of a Latino families. I recently went to El Paso and they were doing a performance of Lydia at a local school. They did a reading for me and some friends of mine that came said they felt like, “you were telling our stories.” The themes became immediate to them and it brought it all back for them. I thought to myself that’s good, it really is universal. And of course, the only way to make a play universal is to make it specific.
Do you have any comment on the place of this play as it deals with immigration in regards to today’s political climate?
Today there is a lot of national talk about immigration. In El Paso it’s always been like that; it’s only now a part of a national conversation. We always had to deal with the fact that the border patrol was going to be walking around every couple hours. There was always going to be someone trying to find their way here. It has always been part of my consciousness.
In your words, how does Ceci capture the life of a young woman with brain damage?
I saw a documentary on severe head trauma, especially about the caregivers and the people treating them in the hospitals and the people that care for them: parents, brothers, and sisters. It captured how hard it is and the adjustments families have to make. Victims often insist on things being done their way because they still are independent people with needs but without a way to communicate. And as soon as I saw that, I knew I needed to tell this story.
Lydia was originally going to be my first kitchen sink drama with pure realism. Then I realized I couldn’t get into this girl’s head. I got my cue from Faulkner in one of his novels, there’s this girl who can barely bring two thoughts together but in her head she’s as eloquent as any poet in the world. In our consciousness we all have access to all the words for the fullest expression that we need. So I thought, what if she can’t express herself to anyone in her family but she can express herself to us? Then the world of the play changed and it couldn’t be that kitchen sink drama world anymore. Something tremendous was breeched and it was never the same.
Anything else you’d like to say about the play?
It’s still talking to me. Any good work will always speak to its author. When a cast rehearses a play and learns it, they also naturally memorize the invisible script. When I see it, that’s the script that continually says things to me. And it’s transporting; it’s still living.
Don’t wait and miss your chance.
Purchase your tickets now here.
**Note: this show contains strong adult language and nudity**
For more information on Lydia click here.