José Rivera (playwright)

José Rivera (playwright)

Infobox writer

imagesize = 150px
name = José Rivera
caption =
pseudonym =
birthname =
birthdate = 1955
birthplace = San Juan, Puerto Rico
deathdate =
deathplace =
occupation = drama
nationality = Puerto Rican
period = 1983–present
genre =
subject =
movement =
notableworks = "Marisol" "The Motorcycle Diaries"
spouse =
partner =
children =
relatives =
influences = Shakespeare, Ibsen, Molière, Márquez
influenced =
awards = Obie Award, Goya Award, Academy Award (nom.)

website =

José Rivera (born in 1955) is a playwright and the first Puerto Rican screenwriter to be nominated for an Oscar.

Early years

Rivera was born in the Santurce section of San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1955. He was raised in Arecibo where he lived until 1959. Rivera's family migrated from Puerto Rico when he was 4 years old, and moved to New York. They settled down in Long Island, whose small town environment would be of an influence to him in the future. His parents were very religious and he grew up in a household whose only book was the Bible. His family enjoyed telling stories and he learned a lot by hearing these stories. As a child, he also enjoyed watching "The Twilight Zone" and "The Outer Limits" T.V. series. He received his primary and secondary education in the New York state public school system. In 1968, when Rivera was 12 years old, he saw a traveling company perform the play "Rumpelstiltskin" at his school. Witnessing the collective reaction of the audience towards the play convinced the young Rivera that someday, he too, would like to write plays. In high school and later in college, he read everything that had to do with Shakespeare, Ibsen and Molière. His education was directed towards the Anglo-Euro Cultures, without receiving any exposure to the literature and writers of Latin America.


The literary experience which was to have a profound influence in his life was when he read "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel García Márquez. Márquez, who is also the recipient of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature, was later to become his mentor at the Sundance Institute.

Rivera incorporated many of his life experiences into the plays that he wrote. In "The Promise" and "Each Day Dies With Sleep", Rivera discusses the experiences he went through as a Puerto Rican in a small American town, with an emphasis on family, sexuality, spirituality and the occult. "Marisol" was inspired by the situation of his homeless uncle. Among his other plays which are produced across the nation and that have been translated into several languages are: "The House of Ramon Iglesias", "Cloud Tectonics", "The Street of the Sun", "Sonnets for an Old Century", "Sueño", "Giants Have Us in Their Books", "References to Salvador Dalí Make Me Hot" and " Adoration of the Old Woman". In 2003, his play "Cloud Tectonics" was presented in the XLII Festival of Puerto Rican Theater, an event sponsored by the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture, in San Juan. Rivera was a founding member of the Los Angeles-based theater company, The Wilton Project.

Awards and honors

Rivera has won two Obie Awards for playwriting, a Kennedy Center Fund for New American plays Grant, a Fulbright Arts Fellowship in playwriting, the Whiting Writers' Award, a McKnight Fellowship, the 2005 Norman Lear Writing Award, a 2005 Impact Award and a Berilla Kerr Playwriting Award.

The Motorcycle Diaries

In 2002, Rivera was hired to write the screenplay for the film "Diarios de Motocicleta" (The Motorcycle Diaries) by director Walter Salles. The movie, which was released in 2004, is based on Che Guevara's diary about a motorcycle trip which he and Alberto Granado had, and how it changed their lives. On January 2005, Rivera became the first Puerto Rican to be nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the "Best Adapted Screenplay" Academy Award.

Rivera has also contributed to the following shows: "The House of Ramon Iglesias" (1986) (TV) as writer, "Family Matters" (1989) (TV series) as writer, "The Jungle Book, Mowgli's Story" (1998) as teleplay writer, "Night Visions" (2001) (TV series) as writer and "Shadow Realm" (2002) in segment harmony. He also co-created and co-produced the NBC-TV series, "Eerie, Indiana".


José Rivera currently lives in Hollywood, California with his wife, actress/producer Sona Tatoyan. His newest play, "Brainpeople," premiered in San Francisco January 30, 2008, and was co-produced by the American Conservatory Theater. Rivera will also direct and write the screenplay for "Celestina", a film loosely adapted from his play "Cloud Tectonics", which will be produced by Walter Salles. Among his future projects is the movie adaptation of "On the Road", a novel by Jack Kerouac.


• The House of Ramon Iglesia (1983)
• The Promise (1988)
• Each Day Dies With Sleep (1990)
• Marisol (1992)
• Flowers (1994)
• Giants Have Us In Their Books (1997)
• Cloud Tectonics (1995)
• Maricela De La Luz Lights The World
• Godstuff
• Adoration of the Old Woman
• The Street of the Sun (1996)
• Sueno (1998)
• Lovers of Long Red Hair (2000)
• References To Salvador Dali Make Me Hot (2000)
• Sonnets for an Old Century (2000)
• School of the Americas (2006)
• Massacre (Sing To Your Children) (2007)
• Brainpeople (2008)
* Boleros for the Disinchanted (2008) world premiere Yale Rep Theatre
* Human Emotional Process (2008) commissioned by McCarter Theatre

many of these plays are published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.

TV Appearances

Rivera was featured in The Dialogue interview series. In this 90 minute interview with producer Mike DeLuca, Rivera describes his transition from playwright to Oscar-nominated screenwriter.

ee also

*List of famous Puerto Ricans
*On the Road (film)
*List of Puerto Ricans in the Academy Awards
*List of Puerto Rican writers
*Puerto Rican literature

Critical studies

as of March 2008:
#Toward a Rhetoric of Sociospatial Theatre: José Rivera's "Marisol" By: J. Chris Westgate, "Theatre Journal", 2007 Mar; 59 (1): 21-37.
#Split Personality: Random Thoughts on Writing for Theater and Film By: José Rivera, "Cinema Journal", 2006 Winter; 45 (2): 89-92.
#"The Motorcycle Diaries" By: Yon Motskin, "Creative Screenwriting", 2005 Jan-Feb; 12 (1): 89.
#'An Urgent Voice for Our Times': An Interview with José Rivera By: Caridad Svich, "Contemporary Theatre Review: An International Journal", 2004 Nov; 14 (4): 83-89.
#Die Imaginierung ethnischer Weltsicht im neueren amerikanischen Drama By: Herbert Grabes, IN: Schlote and Zenzinger, "New Beginnings in Twentieth-Century Theatre and Drama: Essays in Honour of Armin Geraths". Trier, Germany: Wissenschaftlicher; 2003. pp. 327-44
#José Rivera By: Miriam Chirico, IN: Wheatley, "Twentieth-Century American Dramatists, Third Series." Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale; 2002. pp. 281-301
#"Marisol", Angels, and Apocalyptic Migrations By: Jon D. Rossini, "American Drama", 2001 Summer; 10 (2): 1-20.
#An Interview with Jose Rivera By: Norma Jenckes, "American Drama", 2001 Summer; 10 (2): 21-47.
#Dream Editor By: Stephanie Coen, "American Theatre", 1996 Dec; 13 (10): 26.
#Exile and Otherness: Examples from Three Continents By: Phyllis Zatlin, "Hispanofila", 1993 Jan; 107: 33-41.
#Poverty and Magic in "Each Day Dies with Sleep" By: José Rivera, "Studies in American Drama, 1945-Present," 1992; 7 (1): 163-232.
#An Interview with José Rivera By: Lynn Jacobson, "Studies in American Drama, 1945-Present," 1991; 6 (1): 49-58.

External links

*imdb name|1433580
* [ The Dialogue: Learn from the Masters Interview]

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