Guillermo Reyes was born in Chile in 1962 and at the age of nine emigrated with his mother to the Washington, D.C., area. Six years later, they moved to Los Angeles, where Reyes attended high school and eventually became a U.S. citizen. As an undergraduate studying Italian literature at the University of California at Los Angeles, he began to write plays. In 1986, Reyes’s Exile in L.A received an in-house reading as part of the Hispanic Playwrights Project at the South Coast Repertory Theatre. He began a playwriting program the following year at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), where he studied with Allan Havis, Adele Edling Shank, and Jorge Huerta, among others. For the theater department’s Cabaret Series, he wrote and performed several monologues that later served as the raw material for a play about the immigrant condition. Outside of school, Reyes gained exposure to full professional production in 1988 as dramaturg for Antonio Skármeta’s Burning Patience/Ardiente paciencia at the San Diego Repertory Theatre.
His absurdist thesis play, The Seductions of Johnny Diego (1990), which depicts the hypersexual Johnny and his gay brother as members of a dysfunctional Irish/Chicano family, reflects Reyes’s struggles with his own identity. “It took me a long time to write about being gay, Chilean and even Hispanic. I don’t know why. Because sometimes intimate experiences are potentially embarrassing, discomfiting. Ultimately, writing about Chicanos, as in Johnny Diego, helped me slowly creep back into my Latino-Chilean experience” (quoted in Huerta 149). After completing his M.F.A. in playwriting, Reyes moved back to his adopted hometown, Los Angeles. He was teaching English as a second language to immigrants in Koreatown when much of that neighborhood was destroyed during