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Life & Work with Olivia Leyva

Today we’d like to introduce you to Olivia Leyva.

Hi Olivia, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Since I was little, I was enamored with soccer and softball. They pretty much ruled my life from the age of four. It was fun to play and I was good! However, as I grew up, they weren’t fulfilling me in the same way anymore. Even though I played both through college, I still felt like something was missing. I had ignored how good it felt to sing all the time or write little stories and act them out when no one was watching when I was little. I always loved watching plays, musicals and films; how the theater smelled and the way sound was amplified from the orchestra. I couldn’t sit still during performances! So when it came to exploring other things, I knew where I wanted to start. Thankfully, I was at a university that allowed me to pursue Theatre while finishing out my sports career. There I met wonderful people and teachers who were very encouraging and some of whom I still work with today like Libby Baumgartner! With this group we are in, I’ve fallen in love with every aspect of putting on a production and intend to do more directing, acting, writing, and producing. I’ve found what I love to do; tell stories.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Definitely not, haha. Coming to terms with giving up a dream of going into professional sports is bittersweet. On one hand, I’ve found that thing, that purpose that everyone talks about and that makes me happy. On the other, I’m giving up on all that very hard work I put into being the best player I could be. I was essentially starting from scratch while other people my age had been training/learning all their lives. But that’s ok as long as I was ready to put in work. Lastly, there are always obstacles put in your way in any industry when you’re a Black Mexican woman. But that’s what we are trying to dismantle with the Rise Up Project!

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
For as long as I can remember, writing down stories has always been that thing that made me feel whole. So that’s what I feel I’m best at or specialize in. Most of the work people have seen from me are usually one-act plays. I find that they get right the point of the piece and leaves less of chance of losing the audience’s attention. They also leave unanswerable questions and make people really think. You can create a situation of any kind within a one-act play and people will love it. The piece I’m most proud of was a play I wrote in college for a playwriting class. It’s called ‘Mandated Reporter’ and deals with an overworked teacher and an unruly student. It was a play dedicated to teachers and students everywhere but especially to my mother and grandmother, both are teachers. My grandmother was a teacher in LAUSD for 45 years before retiring and my mother has been a middle school band teacher since I was born. I’m a substitute teacher myself so I know just how much teachers deal with as well as the problems that students face daily. That play really validated that this is what I was meant to do. Something I think that sets me apart from others is my ability to see and understand many different viewpoints and therefore are able to write characters that are relatable. Not only because I identify with different cultures, but because I’ve always felt like a pariah in most settings. I’m able to watch how others interact and seeing how personalities collide or mesh and figure why people do the things they do.

What matters most to you? Why?
Accountability and Empathy. It’s something our world tends to lack because terrible things happen everyday and people get beaten down with no way of finding a healthy way out. Anytime I start to feel enraged over something, even the most outrageous of situations, I try to find what led that person to this point. The feeling tends to diffuse itself when I think about what that person might have gone through and how my sudden actions may impact them or others. But, we will never evolve into the best version of ourselves if we cannot address our failings.

Contact Info:

  • Email: ojl96@outlook.com
  • Instagram: @livbug_21
  • Other: TikTok: @naranjajoose20 and @riseupproject2020


Image Credits:

The Laramie Project & Rise Up Projecy logos created by Hayley Silvers.

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