In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the theatre industry, like many others, was challenged to pivot – and embrace opportunities to engage with their audiences in new, mostly digital ways. Melinda Lopez, an incoming faculty member in Northeastern University’s Department of Theatre, has been at the forefront of this innovation in Boston’s theatre scene. Her work – during the pandemic but also long before it – has a reach and impact that permeates Boston and also extends far beyond the local community. With her rich and diverse industry experience and knowledge, she is well-poised to (continue to) innovate, re-think, re-shape, and re-define the industry – and bring this boundary-pushing approach to the Northeastern community.
Melinda Lopez, a published and nationally produced playwright, joins CAMD’s Department of Theatre with a global reputation. She is a Playwright-in-Residence at the Huntington Theatre Company. As the daughter of immigrants, Lopez explores the history of Cuba and the lives of Cuban-Americans in most of her writing. She is active in providing humanitarian aid for the people of Cuba, and was mentioned by President Barack Obama in his historic speech to the Cuban and American people in 2016. Mayor Marty Walsh also declared October 29, 2016 “Melinda Lopez Day” in the City of Boston. She is the recipient of the 2019 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Achievement, recognizing her 20-year career as a playwright, performer, and educator; and she was part of the Mellon Foundation’s National Playwrights Residency Program – among the first American playwrights to receive this three-year residency grant.
During the pandemic, Lopez, alongside her peers at the Huntington Theatre Company, has been developing Dream Boston, a series of audio plays (each one 6-8 minutes long) set in the post-pandemic Boston of the future. The series, written by commissioned local writers, aims to offer a ray of hope to listeners, providing them with a vision of the world we dream of at the end of quarantine. Lopez and the team started with four audio plays in the beginning of the summer, and they have since recorded seven more, which they are currently debuting each week. Recent episodes include Joy by Elle Borders and The Rainman by John Oluwole ADEkoje – available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify Podcasts.
The plays were envisioned as “a hopeful expression of what was awaiting us on the other side of quarantine,” Lopez said in an interview with The Boston Globe.
Dream Boston asks local playwrights to imagine favorite locations, landmarks, and their friends in a future Boston, when we can once again meet and connect in our city.
These micro-plays take place at locations such as the MIT Great Dome on the 4th of July while the sounds of the “1812 Overture” float in the background, at the Boston Public Library where a librarian and library patron debate the ethics of reserving a book, and a first date on the edge of the Boston Common. For anyone new to Boston, the series provides an introduction to the city.
While the initial goal of the series was to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in a unique and productive way, in the midst of developing Dream Boston, Lopez and the team at the Huntington Theatre Company decided it could also work to address and explore even more – and could talk about current events, alongside envisioning the future. To respond to and acknowledge the world’s current state and events, the series began to also focus on nationwide issues of racial injustice and police brutality. Lopez told The Globe: “We understood that we could not talk about the future without talking about the present.”
The audio collection, which has also been featured in WBUR, has now amassed thousands of listens on Soundcloud. Each track begins with Lopez introducing the series as…
a future vision of our city somewhere between dream and reality.
Listen to the short audio plays here.
Dream Boston is just one example of Lopez’s many plays, which have been performed nationally and internationally. Mala (Arts Emerson, 2016; winner Best New Play, Elliot Norton Award, available on Audible in Spanish and English, and performed at the prestigious Guthrie Theatre, MN), a one-woman show, is set during a winter of epic snowfall and is inspired by notes Lopez frantically typed to herself on an iPhone while she cared for her increasingly frail and consistently fierce mother. The short missives ultimately create a moving and generous portrait of the way taking care of family tests, deepens, and changes our bonds to the ones we love; during the COVID-19 pandemic, it aired on television (WGBH) for the first time.
Her other plays include Yerma (adaptation, commissioned by the American Conservatory Theatre and premiered at the Huntington Theatre, June 2019), Back the Night, Becoming Cuba, Orchids to Octopi (commissioned by the National Institutes of Health, Best New Play, IRNE), and Sonia Flew (winner, Elliot Norton Award, Best New Play, Best Production), which has been produced all over the country including: Steppenwolf, Coconut Grove Playhouse, Contemporary American Theater Festival, San Jose Repertory Theatre, and many others. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Boston University, where she studied under Nobel Prize winner, Derek Walcott. She has held residencies with Sundance, the New York Theatre Workshop, and Harvard University. Read more on her website here.
We are pleased to be welcoming Lopez to the Northeastern community.