by Kim Clark, FOSEL board member
The acclaimed Boston playwright, Melinda Lopez, will be at the South End library to talk about her work on Tuesday October 30 at 6:30 PM. Lopez will be introduced by Isabel Alvarez Borland, Distinguished Professor of Arts and Humanities at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, and author of Cuban-American Literature of Exile: From Person to Persona.
Lopez, also an accomplished actress, is recognized as one of the most exciting playwrights currently working in the U.S. In 2013, she was named the first Playwright-in-Residence at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston, thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Before becoming a playwright, Lopez came to the theater as an actress. She launched her career by taking part in readings of new plays at the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis, MN, and moved on to roles in staged performances. She acted in numerous plays, including Romeo and Juliet at the Portland Stage Company in Portland, ME (1997); A Month in the Country (2002); The Rose Tattoo (2004) and Persephone (2007) at the Huntington. As an actress attuned to dialogue, Lopez wondered if she might do more than interpret the stories of others if she had her own compelling stories to tell?
Early forays into writing plays, primarily about her family, were encouraging. She was accepted into the MFA Playwrighting Program at Boston University where Nobel Prize-winning poet and author, Derek Walcott, was her mentor. Her play, Sonia Flew, debuted at the Huntington in 2004 and was awarded both the IRNE and Eliot Norton Awards for Best New Play in that year. Sonia Flew has since been produced by the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, the San Jose (CA) Repertory Theatre and other theater companies. Lopez's other plays include Becoming Cuba (Huntington Theatre, 2014), Caroline in Jersey (Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, MA 2009) and Alexandros (Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach, CA 2008).
Her poignant and powerful one-character play Mala, the only one of her works in which she also appears, debuted at ArtsEmerson Boston in 2016 and won the 2016 Eliot Norton Award for Best New Play. Mala has also been performed at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis (2017) and at the Huntington (2018).
Lopez is currently working on an adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1934 classic Yerma, set to be staged at the Huntington Theatre in June 2019. She likes to feel that a play must have 'heart and compassion, must celebrate the human condition,' whether she is the author, a cast member or, as with Yerma, the translator and adaptor. She feels that theater is at its best when a play explores the existential questions of life and living.