We had the good fortune of connecting with Patricia Cosulich and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Patricia, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
My play, The Great Imitator, includes a blend of realism and imaginative departures from reality. So far readthrough audiences have loved “The Pathogen,” a personified Lyme spirochete with a satirical wit. This still amazes me because of how weird it sounds, even as the writer.
Lyme is primarily an invisible tick-borne illness that affects at least 329,000 new people annually, often remaining undetected, undiagnosed, and untreated for years. Worse than that, insurance often does not cover chronic cases. This silent pandemic is misunderstood and under-researched, which is why I am bringing it to light through theatre.
Inspired by Anna Deavere Smith’s documentary theatre, I interviewed Lyme patients, doctors, loved ones, and advocates to create a narrative exploring various angles of the Lyme disease pandemic through comedy, monologues, and a central character’s journey.
Similar to how Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues fundraise for survivors of domestic violence, The Great Imitator fundraises for Lyme treatment grants. As it grows, I hope to expand this into research and policy advocacy as well. Furthermore, I am inspired by the work of playwrights like Larry Kramer during the HIV/ AIDS social movement in the 1980s, because in collaboration with other activists, they changed our frame of reference for what is possible in terms of patient advocacy.
This project addresses multiple layers of problems affecting the tickborne illness community, including awareness, community building, fundraising, and collective action. In addition to local and main stage productions, my dream is to collaborate with university medical centers to share the play with medical professionals to educate and build more productive and empathetic relationships between invisible illness patients and the medical system.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a social innovator and impact strategist. What that means is I help accelerate impact, especially for cause-based or socially conscious organizations. This can be in the nonprofit, for-profit, or hybrid sector.
Most of my background is in collaborative leadership as well as the creative arts. I grew up performing in musicals and leading community projects, so when Catherine Filloux introduced me to the intersection of theatre and peacebuilding, it was a natural fit. This inspired my latest project, The Great Imitator.
What is unique to The Great Imitator is the setting in which it was developed. I started this project as an applied capstone during my Master of Arts in Social Innovation at the University of San Diego. The school was incredibly supportive of the use of theatre to advocate and create change. Pitching a concept for a play in the entrepreneurship world was a unique experience. This positioning between the worlds of theatre and entrepreneurship became more apparent when I competed for seed funding as a semifinalist in the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge, and again as a founder earning the Certification of Conscious Entrepreneurship through the Torrey Project.
Because The Great Imitator involved such a robust community of warriors in the development process, I am motivated by their journeys. It feels like a cliché to gush over what a community effort it was, except it is true. Daily, I am humbled by the resilience of people I meet through this process. I am proud of what I overcame and continue to overcome.
I am still “young” in my development as a playwright, which offers exciting challenges and opportunities. Completing scripts to the point where I feel ready to call them “done” and share them with the world has brought an unexpectedly steep learning curve, perhaps in part due to the extremely personal nature of the subjects. It is not so much that I feel afraid to share the message of each work; the issue is that I want to do it justice, and thus catch myself feeling immobilized at times because of the gravity of my expectations. I have found nervous system retraining surprisingly helpful in this process, as well as learning the mindset and behavioral differences between “high achievers” and “perfectionists,” and rerouting accordingly to align myself with the former.
Originally, I thought I should be able to do this alone, in a silo, based on the training and resources I already received, such as college courses and many years in the performing arts. Then I struggled to move forward. I felt stuck. What I learned is being surrounded by other creatives, artists, and dreamers inspires me, and it also gives me energy to create. Whether it is a conversation with another artist or a group setting, I have noticed one encounter like this could add momentum to my entire week. I suppose the extroverted part of me thrives creatively from engagement with others, while another part of me also needs periods of solitude to reflect and connect with nature. Exploring different creative rhythms has been quite the adventure, as there is not one size that fits all. I am on a quest to figure out what style works best for me!
While my path toward playwriting was unexpected, I am grateful. When tickborne illness symptoms entered my life, though undiagnosed at the time, I was unsure I could keep performing. Transitioning into playwriting gave me a meaningful way to stay involved in a craft I love.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love the scenic route down PCH, especially through south Orange County and San Diego. There is something special about vibing to your favorite music, inhaling the fresh air, and noticing the characteristics of the different beach communities. It’s the essence of Southern California. And don’t forget to sing along and groove to your music, even if you receive weird looks. Oh, and if you like art, be sure to stop in Laguna Beach to browse the art galleries and talk to artists and gallery owners about their work. If you can make it all the way to San Diego for tacos, do it!
If we’re talking about LA specifically, I love swing dancing. It’s so fun to visit different venues with live music and great people. If your friends are playing a cool gig on Sunset Boulevard, it’s a great feeling.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Thank you to Catherine Filloux, Liliana Padilla, and Evelyn Diaz-Cruz for inspiring me to create theatre that integrates my values for inclusion and advocacy!
Shoutout to Sharon Wampler (scientist and advocate), Stepheni Norton (caretaker of W.D. Dickinson Farm), two of my biggest supporters and inspirations for The Great Imitator. Also, shoutout to Christina Kantzavelos, for creating Begin Within Today and for connecting me with this shoutout! I appreciate her friendship and thought partnership, as well as the opportunity to co-facilitate the San Diego Lyme Alliance Empowerment Circle together.
There are so many people, resources, and books to be grateful for, so it’s hard to choose which ones to mention. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown is one of my most life-changing books of all time. As far as the creative process, Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” (shoutout to morning pages and self-dates) is a classic. I am currently reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown and Designing Your Work Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.
Instagram: @patricia.cosulich and @greatimitatorplay
Photographer: Curt Vogt Actors: Front left to right: DeZell Lathon, Patricia Cosulich Back row left to right: Cat Blanchard, Sky Noblezada, Tara Coffey, Tatiana Quiapo, Ashley Engelman, Beren Yildirim