Dramaturgical Resources



By Jose Rivera

Over the course of the season, our assistant directors and student dramaturgs will be compiling dramaturgical resources relating to each production as it develops. Below are some links to websites which relate to the history of the play, the biography of the playwright, and sites that contextualize and, we hope, shed light on the directorial approach to the dramatic material.

We hope you find these resources of interest.

Jose Rivera

Jose Rivera (b. 1955)

Marisol is an Obie Award-winning play by Jose Rivera.  Jose Rivera was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1955. At the age of 5 he moved with his family to Long Island.  In an interview with the New York Times in 2006, Rivera explains that his fascination with storytelling came from his youth, living with his grandparents, who -- while illiterate -- were excellent storytellers. 

Rivera is a highly decorated playwright, having received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, in addition to a Fulbright Fellowship in Playwriting, a Whiting Foundation Writers’ Award, and two Obie awards.  His first Obie was for Marisol at the 1993 Obie Awards, his second was for References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot in 2001.  He was a student of famed novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who in turn is known for his contributions to the genre of Magical Realism. Similar to his teacher, Rivera's work utilizes Magical Realism as a means to explore themes of a search for identity (interpersonal/cultural), rejection of previously imagined structures (narrative/societal), all of it steeped in language both lofty and poetic.

Marisol was first produced at the 1992 Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, Kentucky, directed by Marcus Stern.  Writing in the Los Angeles Times, theatre critic Sylvie Drake wrote of it that "Rivera paints a horrific landscape of urban chaos, real and emotional, filled with menace and acrimony and held together by taut, sardonic humor."  From the Humana fest, it first moved to La Jolla playhouse in La Jolla, CA, before moving to the Hartford Stage in Hartford, CT, before finally making its New York City premiere in 1993 at the Public Theatre.  Writing about the Public Theatre production, New York Times writer Frank Rich wrote: "Thanks to Mr. Rivera's senses of humor, language and theater, his bleak portrayal of the present and his optimistically multiculturalist vision of the future are not always so formulaic as they sound. His apocalypse is no stock horror show but is flecked with bizarre creations that glint like knife blades in the gloom."

Rivera describes the inspiration behind Marisol in an open letter to the show's cast when it was being produced at USC.  He says that Marisol was written in despair, seeking to explore what felt like a breakdown of social goodwill.  Elsewhere, he says that the eponymous Marisol is a consummate assimilationist.  "I live with a constant sense of melancholy for what I have denied."  In this same interview, he also identifies Marisol as his first play written directly with a next generation in mind, seeking to find new heroes and build new myths for our society.  In 2022, facing ever increasing ecological degradation, social breakdown, and cultural detachment, the play and its myth making is more relevant than ever.