Playwright Has Taken an Offbeat Path : Theater: Octavio Solis, one of three in Hispanic authors project, isn’t one to stick to the main road on way to the stage.


Octavio Solis, one of three participants in this year’s His panic Playwrights Project sponsored by South Coast Repertory, has never confined himself to linear, realistic story lines.

Solis, whose new play incorporates chaos theory, physics and Catholicism, joins Edit Villarreal and Guillermo Reyes in a 10-day SCR residency that begins today and culminates in three staged readings of their works Aug. 9 and 10).

On Aug. 8, when SCR kicks off the sixth season of the Hispanic Playwrights Project with a fund-raiser entitled “Una Noche del Teatro ’91,” Solis’ contribution will be a comedy sketch called “The Mummy of Frida Kahlo, or, the Attack of the 50-Foot Frida.”

During the next 10 days, Solis will be working with SCR producing artistic director David Emmes and a group of professional actors on his new play, “La Illuminada.” The work portrays the efforts of a nuclear physicist to bring back a long-dead lover as a hologram--a three-dimensional image created by laser technology. “La Illuminada,” developed at SCR’s California Play Festival in May, will have a staged reading at SCR on Aug. 10 at 7:30 pm.


To write “La Illuminada,” Solis said, he wove disparate elements of alchemy, physics and Catholicism. In particular, Solis said, he has been “immersing myself in scientific literature,” particularly “chaos theory” and one book on the subject, “Turbulent Mirror: an illustrated guide to chaos theory and the science of wholeness” by John Briggs and David F. Peat..

“I play with a lot of those things,” Solis said by phone from his home in San Francisco before heading for the airport. His new work, Solis said, is “a language play.” The hologram image of the lover, he said, was written for a real actress, he said, but conceivably--perhaps with the aid of UC Irvine’s Beckman Laser Institute--a holographic image could be projected onto the stage.

Solis’ “Man of the Flesh,” an updated version of the Don Juan myth, had a staged reading at an earlier Hispanic Playwrights Project, later premiering at the 1990 California Play Festival. “Man of the Flesh” won several Drama-Logue Awards and is slated for fall productions in Chicago and at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson, Solis said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “Prospect,” another Solis play that was developed in Costa Mesa, has been optioned by “El Teatro Campesino.”

Solis’ involvement with SCR has not been confined to his three residencies at the playwrights’ project and the festivals. Last spring, he accompanied Emmes on a one-month theater tour of four countries in Central and South America under the sponsorship of the U.S. Information Agency and the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology.


Three playwrights are involved in this year’s project, rather than six as in previous years, because a $50,000 Ford Foundation grant has run out and the funds have not been replaced, according to SCR spokesman Chris Gross. As a result, only half as many playwrights submitted scripts to the project. This year’s underwriters include Pacific Mutual Foundation, Anheuser Busch, La Opinion, Miranda Strabela, McLarand Vasquez and Partners, Carl Neisser, Mr. and Mrs. Fernando Niebla and KSRT radio.

Joining Solis, a 33-year-old Texas native, is Villarreal, also of Texas, who is participating in the project for the second time. Villarreal’s play, “R&J;,” a Romeo-and-Juliet drama set in East L.A., will be staged Aug. 9 at 7:30 p.m.

Chilean Reyes, who was a project observer in 1986, has lived in the United States for the past 20 years. On Aug. 10 at 2:30 p.m. he will present “September 11,” a comedy about the dilemmas facing a young Chilean woman on the anniversary of the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende.

* The Hispanic Playwrights Project ’91 will have staged readings Aug. 9 and 10 at South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Tickets for each of the three readings are $8 general, $2 for seniors and students. Information: (714) 957-4033. Tickets for the Aug. 8 fund-raiser “Una Noche del Teatro ’91" are $25. Information: (714) 957-2602.