"Monologos de la Vagina" An artistic and cultural triumph at the Brava theater in the Mission

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Bravo, Bravo: The ladies of the "Monologs de la Vagina" at the Brava Theater. Eliana Lopez is third in from the right.

I had just settled into my seat Friday night at the  Brava Theater in the Mission to see  the opening night  production of “Monologos de la Vagina" and the San Francisco debut of Eliana Lopez as a performer and producer.

This would be an interesting evening, I mused, because the play is being performed in Spanish and I speak only a word or two of Spanish.  The play, known in English as the “Tne Vagina Monologs,” was written by Eve Ensler. It opened in 1994 for a five year run off Broadway and has been produced internationally in many variations. It became, as the New York Times put it, "probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade." .

 Art Agnos, the ex-mayor who is leading  the battle to stop the Manhattanization of the waterfront, was attending the performance  with his wife Sherry. He tapped me on the shoulder and said quietly, Bruce, they filed a lawsuit this afternoon to block our waterfront initiative. They, he explained,  were the developers, the Building Trades and Construction Union, and the San Francisco Giants.  We chatted for a few moments about the impact of the suit and what  must be done quickly to stop  it in court.

This was, I thought, a quintessential San Francisco moment.

Here were Sherry and Art, coming to the Brava Theater, deep in the heart of the Mission at 2781 24th St., on the very day that the waterfront  gang were bringing up their big guns to knock out a people’s initiative aimed at saving the waterfront on the other end of town. The timing was exquisite and the political and community points became eminently clear as the evening wore on.

The  Warriors’ arena proposal, as Art and his allies have argued, is merely a loss leader for a monstrous condos-for-millionaires project by a Los Angeles developer  that would do serious short and long term damage to one of the most valuable pieces of property  in the world.  And it’s on public property on the waterfront  and would involve enormous public subsidies for the duration. The Giants, quiet till now, have their own highrise agenda.

 By contrast, here were Eliana, the Brava Theater, and  her merry band of monologists  working to do good, lots of good,  by producing  the first professional Spanish-speaking  production of the Monologs in San Francisco—and its message  that illuminated  women’s sensuality and the social stigma of rape and abuse.  In the process they were helping to save a lovely old Mission theater building and institution and  helping  the Mission District, which needs all the help it can get these days.

 Neighborhood theaters like Brava are an endangered species in San Francisco and its home base in  the Mission is under relentless eviction and gentrification pressure.  San Francisco is the only major urban municipality in California  that is not seeing an increase in its Latin population..

Eliana became famous in her native Venezuela as a star in television soap operas, but her real passion is live theater.  Her father is a theater director in Caracas and live theater is in her bones. She feels strongly that San Francisco needs more and better access to Spanish-speaking  theater and Brava is a wonderful venue for her to indulge her passion.  She and her husband, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, live with their son Theo, 4,  on the edge of the Mission, only three blocks from the theater. 

I found that the good  thing about seeing the Monologos without knowing  the language was that I could still get a lot out of the play and the production  The lady from Venezuela can act—and did so beautifully and with charm, gusto, and style. And she can perform in both English and Spanish, as she has done in other Monolog productions. .

 She can also produce, mounting  a professional production that could play on any stage in San Francisco or Caracas or points in between. And she is also a splendid promoter and public face of the play and the theater, appearing regularly on Spanish  programs on radio and television and in public appearances. Her six person ensemble  included  two actors  who have performed  the Monologs in Spanish in Miami and New York: Alba Roversi  and Marisol Correra. Eliana performed with Alba in Caracas.

The actors  worked together nicely, obviously enjoyed each other and  the dialog, played to each other’s strengths, and got their points across with expressive  gestures and voice inflections and humor and poignancy. They loved the play and got a big kick out of performing at the Brava Theater. The audience loved the ladies and their performance and gave them a standing ovation.  Alas, the play was only for the three day Valentine’s Day weekend.

Bravo, Eliana. Bravo.  Keep on rolling, as we say in English. B3 

A newspaper is not just for reporting the news as is, but to make people mad enough to do something about it.  Mark Twain  (The motto of Random Lengths, an alternative newspaper published by James Allen in San Pedro, Calif.)

(The Bruce blog is written and edited by Bruce B. Brugmann, editor at large of the Bay Guardian.  He was the editor and co-founder and  co-publisher with his wife Jean Dibble of the Guardian, 1966-2012)