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OSF: "Mother Road" playwright discusses play's inspiration

NewsWatch 12 had the opportunity to sit down with Mother Road’s playwright, Octavio Solis about what inspired him to turn a classic novel into a play about the new American family and social justice.

Posted: Jun 14, 2019 11:21 PM
Updated: Apr 28, 2021 10:23 AM

MEDFORD, Ore. – Octavio Solis is part playwright, part author, and now part farmer in Medford.

“It's extraordinarily therapeutic. They center me. They kind of remind me that life is about life."

Mother Road is his fourth play performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a new take on The Grapes of Wrath. It's about a man named William Joad who has no blood family to inherit his farm. He learns he's related to a young Mexican-American man named Martín Jodes. They bond with as new friends and family as they make their way from California back to the farm in Oklahoma.

“Mother Road is about building the new American family,” said Solis. "We start to build the family that is an old man who is white and a young man who is Latino. On it they start bringing on new people, [including] a young woman who happens to be a lesbian, another young man who happens to be Black, another person who happens to be Native American, and the bones of the decedent who dies not on his own land."

When Solis was beginning to write the play, he did the same trek in reverse. He met a worker at the Arvin Migrant Camp just outside of Bakersfield, California.

“In his interview with me he told me 'I am the new Tom Joad and we that is the migrant workers today are the new Okies,’” Solis recalled. “When he told me that story, I knew what my play was. I knew what I had to do."

As a son of Mexican immigrants, he sees himself, his upbringing and his success in this play as well.

"What I'm trying to express through Mother Road is ‘Watch out, America's changing. America's changing and you don't have to fear it,’” added Solis.

Mother Road is playing at the Angus Bowman Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival until October 26th.

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