Lysious Ogolo is a Nigerian-American writer and playwright, who incorporates his diverse upbringing into his stories about love, faith, and growth.
After attending school in both his native Nigeria, and in Washington, D.C., Lysious ultimately graduated from Howard University, with a degree in Radio, Television and Film. Using the connections he made at Howard’s Theatre Department, and the support of his church, Lysious is now developing his first major theatre production entitled “A Priceless Heart,” a story about a young woman who chooses love over her family’s desires.
Lysious discusses the development of “A Priceless Heart,” why he wants to inspire young people, and how his own upbringing influences his stories.
Q: Tell me about the musical and the story behind it.
LYSIOUS: “A Priceless Heart” is a story about a young girl who’s trying to make a choice between what she wants for herself and what her father wants for her. In the process, she falls in love with a young man who, of course, her father is totally against, and she has to make that choice between her life, and the fact that she wants to be a musician. Her father, being a successful businessman, wants her to follow that path.
“As young people we’re always faced with that choice between what we want to do, what society wants us to do, and sometimes what our family wants us to do”
I think it’s something that will speak to a lot of young people. As young people we’re always faced with that choice between what we want to do, what society wants us to do, and sometimes what our family wants us to do. It’s interesting because there’s a lot of young people who are scared to go after what they want to do, because maybe they don’t have the support of their family; maybe they think they’re going to fail if they go after what they want to do. So you have people that are in careers that they hate or jobs they don’t like, just because [they are] trying to be realistic. At the end of the day, I hope it would inspire a lot of young people to follow your heart.
Also, it’s a love story. It’s a question of how far you are willing to go for love and what you are willing to give up. Imagine being an heir to a multi-million dollar empire, and you’re saying no, and you’re going to turn your back against that and do your own thing. That’s a huge step you’re going to take. A close friend of hers is going to say she’s crazy, you’re set-up for life; think about how many artists you know out there. It’s hard for you to even break in and you want to start from scratch.
“This is my most personal work to date”
Q: What made you want to focus on the role that fathers play?
LYSIOUS: I always say that this is my most personal work to date. I worked on a couple of novels in the past, and I’ve written and directed some plays, but it was basically just doing some work with church. A little bit of myself is in this. Growing up, I had a not-so-pretty relationship with my father. At some point, I was a little scared of him. I remember my mom said to him, that “you need to stop yelling at the kid – that’s your son. You need to get closer to him.”
“I remember my mom said to him, that “you need to stop yelling at the kid – that’s your son. You need to get closer to him”
For a long time, I spent most of my life with my mom. I’m originally from Nigeria, so we moved to the United States when I was nine. Until then it was living with my mom. Over time, I came to the United States, and seeing some things going on with the family – You can say mistakes he made. I learned to move on and understand that, as a father, he’s trying to do the best he can, regardless of the mistakes in his past. So we really got along well. Later on, we got to know each other.
“I wanted to speak to fathers, because I feel like today we have a whole generation of families who are not very close, especially in a place like America”
I wanted to speak to fathers, because I feel like today we have a whole generation of families who are not very close, especially in a place like America. You have fathers who work around the clock, and don’t have time for the kids, and that relationship has been broke between fathers and sons, and fathers and their daughters. I believe so much in the strength of the family. I hope this will encourage fathers – family is all you got. That is one of the reasons I learned to move on and appreciate my father, because I found that regardless of the mistakes he made, he was willing to hold the family together.
“I found that regardless of the mistakes he made, he was willing to hold the family together”
Q: Tell me more about your education both at Howard and in your community.
LYSIOUS: I feel like I’m both the American and Nigerian cultures equally. I went to school here and in Nigeria as well. I went to middle school and high school in Nigeria, but then I went to high school here too. I went to Roosevelt High School, right near Howard. After that, I went to University of the District of Columbia (UDC) for two years. From UDC, I went to Howard.
“At Howard I got to understand what it means to be a Black man in American”
At Howard I got to understand what it means to be a Black man in American. I realized I couldn’t tell stories that wouldn’t speak to my people. It was finding a voice; it was about speaking to the next generation of young men, women and children coming up, and to inspire that generation to know that we’re beautiful and amazing people and we can do great things.
I’m working with a guy called Javon Ford, a composer. He’s done a lot of composing work for the Howard University theatre department. At Howard, we did the Broadway show “Anything Goes,” so he worked as Assistant Musical Director for that, and has been working on music for about eleven years, and composing for seven. We plan to bring in together different aspects of different music, from hip hop, to R&B to pop, to contemporary, and even modern day gospel. It’s a fusion of different kinds of music. I love music and it’s always been a part of who I am.
Q: Who else is involved in the musical? Both in the development, and also with the crew?
LYSIOUS: I’ve been getting a lot of interest from people who’ve done some amazing work in the past. A guy who is actually going to do the choreography, Royce Zachary, he worked on “Anything Goes,” and has worked on Broadway shows in the past. A huge part of the Howard Theatre Department is going to be part of it. While at Howard, I saw that play “Anything Goes” and I was amazed: from the dancing, to the acting, everything was just fantastic. So I told myself, I need to work with that cast and crew there.
“This is my first major theatre production and I wanted to use the best of the best”
We have one of the greatest, the best people right now in the industry, as far as acting. These are people who I have seen do some great work in the past. This is my first major theatre production and I wanted to use the best of the best. We have a great team.
Q: Where will you be in 5 days, 5 months and 5 years?
LYSIOUS: I’ll start backwards. In five years, I will be touring the world with my plays. In five years, I would be doing movies. The plan is to go from plays to movies, and hopefully TV shows. In five months, I will be working with a media-sales institute. After that, I’ll get a job, maybe at Radio One. My degree at Howard is radio/TV production and film. In five days, I’ll be at that training.
Thanks Lysious for the interview! Visit his official website for more information on “A Priceless Heart.”