Crossing Borders With Octavio Solis And 'Quixote Nuevo' At Hartford Stage

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When the Oregon Shakespeare Festival asked Octavio Solis to adapt Don Quixote to the stage, he discovered it was a massive undertaking.

“What they wanted was a more faithful adaptation of the novel set in that period for their theater audience,” he says, adding that the popular musical Man of La Mancha “completely ignored the book altogether.”

His adaptation had a successful run but he saw limitations to its stage transformation.

“The pitfall is in the fact that the character of Don Quixote doesn’t grow, never changes, never has a moment of doubt. At the end of the day, I felt like I was honoring [Miguel de] Cervantes but I wasn’t finding my own voice in the work.”

In Quixote Nuevo, his new play which is described as a “re-imagining of Don Quixote,” he has.

In the work, which plays Hartford Stage Sept. 19 to Oct. 13 and is directed by KJ Sanchez, Solis takes his hero and places him on the U.S./Mexico border, the setting of so much of the work. Solis, who was born in El Paso, Texas, says, “I’m a child of the border.”

“Once I changed the setting, everything changed: the language, the characters. This time I wrote something for me, for our time, something that would resonate with what we’re going through today.”

His central character is a Cervantes scholar, who at the end of his life is undergoing the initial stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s. “He is conflating elements from his past with events from the novel until he can’t tell what is real and what is not.”

Solis says his hero remembers a girl he once knew and loved when she and her parents were migrant workers on his father’s field — but who lived on the other side of the border. “He can’t even remember her real name anymore, so he names her Dulcinea. And now he feels it is now or never the time to get her — because they’re building this wall.”