By Lupita Peimbert. Photography by Luke Thomas.
It took me a little while to process the one-woman show “Cuál es el Escándalo? – What is the Scandal?” presented to members of the media last Thursday, the day before its premiere at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco.
It was powerful, although I could not figure out if the one-woman show by Venezuelan actress Eliana Lopez –the wife of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, was just a play, docudrama, political satire, or a platform to get the demons out and heal, A la San Francisco.
Cuál es el Escándalo? gives voice to a woman who was at the center of a couple’s conflict turned political scandal in 2012, the facts exacerbated by some of the media’s coverage.
Mirkarimi, a well-respected, ultra-liberal, former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors saw his public image and his new job as Sheriff go to hell. Eliana Lopez, his wife and mother of their son Theo, now has created a theatrical piece to tell her truth, daring to face certain power figures in local government, and a neighbor-friend who condescendingly betrayed her trust, according to Cuál es el Escándalo?.
Eliana, the actress, takes a chance to do what she loves: theatre, and she has plenty of talent. She proves that she can hold it on her own, showing her strong personality, far beyond the “little missy” paternalized by well-intended feminists who seemingly took a stand to protect Eliana from what they saw as domestic violence.
What hits home after seeing What is the Scandal? for the one who writes and perhaps for other Latinos, African-Americans, immigrants, and those who love them, is that Eliana’s ordeal and her one-woman show speak about the little power and the many disadvantages that groups mentioned-above have in San Francisco. Patronizing. Labeling. It still happens in this City. Like the people who, without knowing Eliana, perceived or referred to her as “non-English speaker, immigrant, abused woman,” with a dose of negative stereotyping.
The show has many funny moments, as the actress plays several characters: A pragmatic friend from Venezuela, a husband (Mirkarimi) who does not know how to dance, and my favorite: Mr. Lie, a local politician of obviously Asian descent, turned villain, and who supposedly moves the strings around to satisfy the agendas of Who-Knows-Who. It made me think of a local someone.
“This is a work of fiction; any resemblance with the truth is pure coincidence,” they noted during the play.
Wink-wink! I said. With all due respect to the Mayor of San Francisco, he was a figure in this scandal, and Eliana does a great characterization of him. She is very funny! she looks like him while impersonating him.
What is the Scandal? is entertaining and touching as storytelling; as a study in politics and media, it does a fair job. As Eliana Lopez’ platform to express her side of the story, it is powerful, as she candidly dares to share private and personal matters.
If there is one thing I would have preferred to see, is a better portrayal of Ross Mirkarimi, who prior to being Sheriff, was a prominent San Francisco Supervisor who wrote and supported dozens of progressive pieces of legislation, like the one banning the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags in large supermarkets and drugstores, for which San Francisco received national attention. As elected official Mirkarimi has been compassionate, a visionary, and one who paid attention to his constituency. He has been respectful to immigrant communities, African-Americans, and to youth, displaying sensitivities that many current elected officials and their staff could practice to better serve the people. At some point, he was seen as material for Mayor of San Francisco.
Sure, he showed his macho-side as a new husband and father, and to what extent he was wrong is something that pertains to the couple –who have gone to therapy, who are together, and who seem a happy family after all. Feisty at times, Eliana has proven that she can speak up and defend herself when necessary.
Eliana and Ross have developed strong ties within several communities. Marcos and Isabel Gutierrez, with their radio show “Hecho en California,” supported them throughout their ordeal. Isabel introduced Eliana the night the show was presented to the media.
“You are in for a treat!,” she told the audience. It was a powerful treat. It gives a new light to those scandalous months, while setting the record straight. In addition, it exposes a sad reality in San Francisco politics: money rules. Furthermore, it shows how a feisty Venezuelan has the guts to fight back. Perhaps Latinos and other immigrants can learn from it. To fight back, to speak up, to not be intimidated.
The one-woman show is in Spanish with English subtitles, and some bilingualism. It was written and directed by Alfonso Lopez, produced by Carolina Agudero, and with Juliana Mojica as their publicist. The Mission Center for Latino Arts is their partner, and so a group of local businesses and activists. It is running for two weeks only.
Saturday and Sunday, May 30th and 31st.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 5, 6, and 7.
General Admission $20.
For more information and tickets:
Buy Tickets: http://bit.ly/1IW9BPu
Lupita Peimbert is a bilingual writer and content publisher in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Luke Thomas is photographer and publisher of FogCityJournal.com
All Rights Reserved. 2015.