Name: Melinda Lopez
Current Town: Boston
Playwright in Residence, Huntington Theatre Co, Boston MA;
Boston University, Visiting Faculty, MFA Playwriting Program;
Wellesley College, Senior Lecturer, Theatre Studies
Q: How do you self-identify?
A: Cuban American
Q: Tell me about Mala.
A: “’Mala’ means ‘bad.’ Not that you have done something bad, but that you are, in your core, bad.” A one woman show, funny, brutally honest, Mala puts a sharp focus on what it means to put our loved ones first, right to the very end, and what happens when we strive to be good, but don’t always succeed.
An utterly unsentimental journey towards the end of life and out the other side, Mala is an irreverent exploration of how we live, cope and survive in the moment. Mala dances between doctors and urgent 911 calls, a mother’s growing frailty, and a daughter’s quest for grace—all set during an epic Boston winter. The play opens the door for conversation in our universal struggle to support those we love in dying, especially when all we’ve ever focused on is surviving.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: A new translation/adaptation of Yerma (Lorca) for American Conservatory Theatre
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: Every time I watch an actor take on a role I wrote and make it theirs, it is defining. Every time the lights go dark at the beginning and end of my plays, it’s defining. Getting lauded and panned for the same play—defining. Not knowing what a play is, and then learning as I write, and then knowing by the end. Also, Nicky Martin directing Sonia Flew, and knowing that my play belonged in his hands. Learning that the more specific a story is, the more universal it is.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: People I know and have worked with: Kate Snodgrass, Derek Walcott, Nicholas Martin. People I don’t know but read and adore: Suzan-Lori Parks, José Rivera.
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Write what you want to write. Tell the truth. Be good to everyone you work with and work for. Listen to actors. Have faith, have faith, have faith.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: My motto: the play doesn’t have to be perfect. But it has to be mine.
Also: I think it’s better to make a big mistake than play it safe. And I think it’s better to question everything—especially the people and ideas that we trust the most, and push back. And I think being around children and dogs is important. And I think rehearsal space is sanctified space, and every day we get to be in rehearsal is a perfect day. We fight like hell to get there, so I believe in making an active to choice to love every single moment of it. Even when it’s hard.
***For more on Melinda Lopez, see:
- Visit Melinda Lopez’s Personal Website
- “Boston Playwright Melinda Lopez On President Obama’s Cuba Speech” (Radio Boston)
- “Obama highlights Boston playwright’s Cuban connection” – Don Aucoin (Boston Globe)
- “Dreaming of Cuba…” – Melinda Lopez
- “An Interview with Melinda Lopez on the State of Female Characters in Drama” – Allison Raynor (HowlRound)
- “Why I Paid Too Much for Tickets to Hamilton, and Other Musings on the Fragility of Life” – Melinda Lopez (Café Onda/HowlRound)
- “The Constant Gardener: Melinda Lopez Reflects on Her Mellon Residency and Repotting” – Miranda Craigwell (HowlRound)
- “Meet Melinda Lopez: Playwright, Equity Actor, and Mom: An Interview with Melinda” – Bobbie Steinbach (Actors Equity)
- Read about Melinda Lopez at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
- Read Melinda Lopez’s essays at HowlRound