The Impact of Cultural, Political Forces

Elizabeth Pe??a and Hector Elizondo star in Los Angeles area premiere of Sonia Flew, June 13

By Lucy Pollak
Published on LatinoLA: June 10, 2007

The Impact of Cultural, Political Forces

Elizabeth Pe??a and Hector Elizondo star in the Los Angeles premiere of Melinda Lopez's acclaimed new play, Sonia Flew. L.A. Theatre Works records five performances to air on LATW's nationally-syndicated weekly radio theater series, The Play's The Thing, June 13 through 17 at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Sonia Flew is the powerful story of a Cuban-American woman who, as a child, was smuggled out of Cuba and into the United States as part of Operation Pedro Pan. Now an adult raising two children with her Jewish husband in Minneapolis, Sonia must struggle with her own childhood memory of escaping the Cuban revolution when her only son enlists in the military.

Lopez paints a compelling, yet lyrical portrait of two families in crisis, in two countries over a 40-year span - an insightful look at how cultural and political forces impact the lives of ordinary men and women.

Operation Pedro Pan occurred between 1960 and 1962 when Cuban parents sent more than 14,000 children to Miami with fake American visas - the largest recorded exodus of unaccompanied minors in the Western Hemisphere. With Castro's rise to power, parents were afraid the state would revoke their parental rights, and their fears were heightened when the government closed religious schools and sent young women to teach the uneducated to read. Although Pedro Pan parents planned to reunite with their children, some were never able to, and the children were placed in foster homes around the country.

When Lopez learned that her cousin had been a Pedro Pan, she became fascinated by the lengths to which parents must go in order to keep their children safe. "My cousin's incredible saga has always stayed with me," she said in an interview. Following 9/11, Lopez also became interested in the feelings of patriotism that were sweeping the United States and the stories of young soldiers going to war. "Somehow the two stories became tied together in my mind," she explained. "Out of this whirlwind of many thoughts emerged this woman."

Sonia Flew was named Best New Play by the Independent Reviewers of New England and is the recipient of the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding New Play.

Melinda Lopez was a playwriting fellow at The Huntington Theatre in Boston, 2003-2005, where Sonia Flew was developed and premiered in 2004. She was the first recipient of the Charlotte Woolard Award, given by the Kennedy Center to a "promising new voice in American Theatre" and a 2003 recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant in playwriting.

Her plays include God Smells Like A Roast Pig (Women on Top Festival, Elliot Norton Award -Outstanding Solo Performance); Midnight Sandwich/Medianoche (Coconut Grove Playhouse); The Order of Things (CentaStage Performance Group, Kennedy Center Fund for New Plays); How Do You Spell Hope? (Underground Railway Theatre); and Scenes From A Bordello (Boston Playwrights Theatre); in addition to commissions for the Boston Museum of Science, and numerous entries in the Boston Theatre Marathon. Ms. Lopez is also an actress, and teaches theater and performance at Wellesley College.

Five performances of Sonia Flew take place Wednesday, June 13 at 8 pm; Thursday, June 14 at 8 pm; Friday, June 15 at 8 pm; Saturday, June 16 at 3 pm; and Sunday, June 17 at 4 pm. The Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Boulevard, in the Santa Monica Mountains just off the San Diego (405) Freeway (exit Skirball Center Drive). Tickets range from $20.00 to $46.00. For reservations and information, call the L.A. Theatre Works Box Office at (310) 827-0889 or go to www.latw.org.

About Lucy Pollak:
Lucy Pollak directs public relations for L.A. Theatre Works.

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