artist statement


Photo by Nico Fernandez


I tell stories about marginalized characters who, in the face of impossible odds, dare to dream beyond what they know and make their vision a reality. 

American society is all about heroes, winners, and celebrities. As a result, we as individuals have become obsessed with perfection. We’ve become so scared of our flaws that we feel like we have to bury them or be canceled. I combat this American mindset by giving my characters, ranging from Hollywood icons to immigrant students, the right to be complex, messy humans, and for that to be enough for us to care about them.


As a Bohemian city dweller who’s spent most of my career working at restaurants and non profits, I am also drawn to the trials and tribulations of normal people trying to form alternative communities in reaction to the American white heteropatriarchy status quo. Despite good intentions, they are still impacted by this ethos of American perfectionism. I am fascinated by the ways our ethics and egos are tested in these settings, and how that is revealed publicly and privately. I am also heavily influenced by my deep love of movie musicals (such as Moulin Rouge and Chicago), and Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s ensemble based realism style. 

What’s unique about my work is that I devise and develop my stories over time with an ensemble of actors. Together, we tear apart existing classics (films, plays, short stories, and novels), or nonfiction pieces (biographies, political screeds etc.), and build a new story centering the themes we want to explore and the tropes we want to subvert. Usually these are centered around alternate endings for female characters, which are normally tragic. Some of the descriptors critics have used for my work are “Millennial Bloodbath (Kevin Greene, NewCity Stage )” “Blurring the lines between surrealism and destruction (Danielle Levsky, NewCity Stage)” “Ripped from the headlines urgency (Dmitri Samarov, Chicago Reader)”. 

Olivia Lilley is a screenwriter, director, playwright, and producer who came up in Chicago's DIY and Storefront Theatre scenes. Olivia is the Artistic Director of Prop Thtr and a Board Member at The National New Play Network. She was the founding Artistic Director of The Runaways Lab Theatre (Voted Best New Theatre Company in the Chicago Reader's Best of 2014). Olivia’s feature screenplay “The Snowpeople” was selected for Full Spectrum Features Producers’ Lab 2020. She was selected for Broadway for All's Theatre Producers of Color: Commercial Producing 101 Inaugural cohort. She's taught at DePaul's Theatre School, The Playwright's Center, Chicago Dramatists, and The Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis. Olivia attended Carnegie Mellon School of Drama for Directing and Interlochen Arts Academy for Music Composition. She is currently working on her MFA in Screenwriting from The University of Nebraska at Omaha.


Photo by Jacob Michael Hanania