By Elizabeth Cobbe ’01
Octavio Solis ’80, ’83 (M.F.A.) has achieved what many people dream of but few ever accomplish: he is a working playwright and director.
Say that to anyone who works in the theater, and they’ll be impressed, because it’s no easy feat. Octavio, however, has a resume of 12 produced plays and solid relationships with some of the most respected theaters in the country.
Octavio has also ventured into the world of directing for film. He adapted his play Prospect for the screen and shot it on digital video in Dallas and Los Angeles. As it turns out, he only initiated the project as a filler during a slow period in the feast-or-famine cycle that dominates any artist’s career.
“The problem is,” Octavio laughs, “I first started doing this film because I thought my career in theatre was over… Then all of a sudden, as soon as I started on the film, the calls started to come in.”
This year alone, Octavio has had or will have seven productions of his plays, three of which he will direct himself. His newest play, The Ballad of Poncho Lucy, will open in San Francisco this fall.
Solis, who now lives with his wife and daughter in San Francisco, was finally able to see his work performed in his native El Paso in a 2003 college production of Santos & Santos. “It was very, very, very cool,” he recalls. “I had been a kind of favorite son.”
What’s more, he says, he’s proud to have made himself part of the strong and unique literary tradition to have emerged from West Texas. The peculiarities of his former stomping grounds are a big part of his writing.
“I bring that crazy frontier border spirit,” he says. “Very few people really, really understand it. Not many people know about it, fewer people understand it. It’s a hardscrabble life. It’s its own world.”