'Lydia and the Troll' Invents an Origin Myth for the Fremont Statue

Playwright Justin Huertas centers marginalized characters in his fantastical stories of Seattle's history.

By Stefan Milne February 25, 2020 Published in the March 2020 issue of Seattle Met

You've seen the Fremont Troll. But have you heard the Fremont Troll's story?

"I’m trying to decide how much I want to reveal,” Justin Huertas says. “Essentially, Lydia gets turned into a troll and she has to basically spend the rest of the story trying to reverse this curse.” This, plus Lydia’s writer’s block (she’s a singer-songwriter) and her struggles with a bad boyfriend, form the plot of Lydia and the Troll, a new musical Huertas wrote (book, lyrics, music) for Seattle Repertory Theatre. Huertas and director Ameenah Kaplan aim to give a magical origin story to the Fremont Troll—which will come to life via puppets and shadow play—and to foreground a Black female protagonist, played by Sarah Russell.

It’s the third piece in which Huertas has placed a marginalized hero in an alternative mythology for Seattle. He loaded up his first, Lizard Boy, a queer coming-of-age superhero musical, with local landmarks: Dick’s, the Crocodile, Olympic Sculpture Park. Some people told him he might have to dial back the local references if he wanted to take the piece elsewhere. He took umbrage. “I can create a story set in Seattle,” he says, “and it would be just as universal as any other of these freakin’ plays that we do that are set in New York or London or whatever.” So last summer he premiered The Last World Octopus Wrestling Champion—yup, it’s about the old Puget Sound pastime of grappling with cephalopods (plus more magic).

He’s not ready to call it a trilogy, though. “I kind of want to just keep going,” he says. “What’s the next myth to tackle? I think Bigfoot.”

► Lydia and the Troll, May 8–June 14, Seattle Repertory Theatre, $48–$72

Updated on March 17: This show has been canceled due to coronavirus. 

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