Wellesley Theatre Faculty Member’s Play to Be Produced in Cuba

A scene form the Huntington Theater Company's production of Sonia Flew.
Photo provided by T. Charles Erickson
October 5, 2018

Award-winning playwright Melinda Lopez, lecturer in theatre studies at Wellesley, has seen her work performed at theaters around the United States. This week, her work will be seen for the first time in her parents’ home country: Cuba.

Sonia Flew and Becoming Cuba will be published in book form in Cuba and read in Havana on Oct. 5 and Camaguey on Oct. 8 as part of the Cuban National Theatre Festival.

A daughter of Cuban-born parents who came to the United States in 1959 after Fidel Castro took power, Lopez said the launch of the book and the stage productions represent the achievement of a long-desired goal.

“This is something I’ve wanted for so many years, and I worked hard to try and make it happen,” she said. “Like so many other things, you can work hard, but there is always a little luck or serendipity involved to make big things happen.”

Lopez explores the history of Cuba and the lives of Cuban-Americans in her work. Sonia Flew, which was recently performed by the Wellesley Repertory Theatre, is set in both post-revolutionary Havana and post-9/11 Minneapolis and examines the impact of the strong cultural and political forces of a historic moment on the lives of ordinary people. The play explores parental sacrifice, familial responsibility, and patriotism in times when worlds collide.

Becoming Cuba takes place in 1897, as Cuban rebels intensify their insurgency against Spain in a bid for independence.

The effort to see her work performed in Cuba received a boost when President Obama gave a speech in Havana in 2016 during which he mentioned Lopez.

While discussing the ties between the people of Cuba and the U.S., including the many Cuban-Americans who travel back to the island, he referenced her visit in 2011 to see the town where her parents had lived. A shocked Lopez watched the speech on television from her home in Bedford, Mass.

Then in March 2017, Lillian Manzor, founding director of the Cuban Theater Digital Archive at the University of Miami, who was familiar with her writing, contacted Lopez. “We stayed in touch and talked about how great it would be to work together in Cuba,” said Lopez.  “We applied for a few grants and eventually found funding while she contacted a publisher on the island, and it all led to this.”

Lopez received approval for publication of her plays in Cuba earlier this year. The readings will be recorded and available to watch on the digital archive.

“It’s thrilling,” she said, as she prepared for her flight to Cuba earlier this week. “We’ve been talking about this for months, but with these types of things you are never really sure that it’s going to happen. I see this as me coming full circle, back to my roots.”

Photo: A scene form the Huntington Theater Company's production of Sonia Flew. Actors from left to righ: Amelia Alvarez, Will LeBow, Carmen Roman.