"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)

Comments

After all - you made more than $2 million from selling the Guardian building to developers who proceeded to turn it into high-price condos - can't you afford to put some of that back into the community?

Bruce goes and sees a play in a language he can't understand And then congratulates himself on how diverse he is. All of his essays are easy to mock but the tone-deaf nature of this one really takes it to a whole new level.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 7:22 pm

I agree that putting some money in the Mission community would be a great idea. Not just in the condos that one can afford. Especially the Latinos that have been living here for many years.
Help us keep the mission clean.

Posted by Veronica Lobos on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 7:43 pm

It's just better that way.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 7:56 am

A review of a Spanish-language play by someone who can't speak Spanish.

Typical of the SFBG these days...

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 7:36 pm

by focusing on their bouncing bosoms and gleaming bronze skin, their flashing white teeth and glossy bee-stung lips - Bruce hadn't felt that alive since he participated in the clinical trials for Viagra back in 1998.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 7:52 pm

I love that a show like this can be featured in the mission at the Bravo theater. The Bravo theater is a true culture piece that needs to be kept alive in the mission. It is very important that this show is done in some many different languages.
As a Latina and someone that grew up in the mission, I do miss that true Latino roots that they mission is so known for. I love see the old school cars cruising the street up and down 24th and mission. I hope we can see more show at the Bravo theater.

Posted by Veronica Lobos on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 7:40 pm

The roots are white. Hispanics came along relatively recently and are now leaving.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 7:57 am

Good job enwhitening and gentrifying the audience of los Monologs de la Vagina, Bruce. Was the entire audience old, white, self-satisfied, non-Spanish speaking males like you and Art?

But seriously, a chilling glimpse into Bruce's simplistic view of the world in which development battles are the struggle of good vs evil with himself -- surprise -- on the side of good.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 8:06 pm

Don't be too hard on the old dear.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 8:24 pm

When anyone else does it it's cultural appropriation and bad.

Posted by guest on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 10:58 pm

Я тоже любил играть, хотя я не говорю ни слова по-испански.

Спасибо, SFBG!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 8:15 pm

Hey Bruce. You need to seriously stop your rants against those developers and their "condos-for-millionaires". Stop saying that or else you're going to keep getting called out for selling your property to, surprise surprise, developers to convert into condos-for-millionaires. Otherwise you just come across as a hypocrite who is willing to put other people's money where your mouth is.

Oh one more thing. Chris Daly also needs to never speak about how evil banks and landlords are.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

Chimichanga & burrito.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 8:44 pm

if you don't know the language?

Thankfully he didn't have to see it performed by a person who's political views he does not agree with.

Posted by guest on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 8:53 pm

in "VJJ monologes" [sic]?

At least Bruce can speak *one* language correctly, which is more than I can say for some of the trolls here.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 7:59 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 8:26 am

keeps women from talking openly around you.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 8:47 am

They like a guy who isn't afraid to take a risk and speak the truth even if it's a little inconvenient to some vested interests.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 8:55 am

Did Mirkarimi and Lopez sell their TIC in D5?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 9:51 pm

What does any of this trollish BS have to do with the play? Answer: nothing, because trolls don't care one way or another. Because all they want to do is trash the Guardian.

And that's a real shame, because there's some intelligent and pertinent criticism to be found about the play. From feminist perspectives. Like here:
http://www.wendymcelroy.com/ifeminists/2002/0212.html
And here:
http://web.archive.org/web/20060101043224/www.bettydodson.com/vaginano.htm

On other threads, I've defended the *way* Eliana Lopez handled the production. But the production itself is another matter. I have serious issues with a play that, as McElroy puts it, "equates men with 'the enemy' - heterosexual love with violence". I wish we could hear something on these pages other than blind praise of a seriously flawed play on the one hand, and trollish nonsense on the other.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 9:54 pm

Greg -

Setting aside both sides of how people feel about the play, do you not think it's fair to bring up Bruce Brugmann's attitude towards developers? He broached the subject in his article ("condos-for-millionaires". Which the developer that he sold to made.). He consistently complains about how developers are "destroying what San Francisco is" and yet he still sold the BG's old office to those same developers. How is that not being a hypocrite?

Same thing with Chris Daly. He went on and on about how landlords and banks are evil but he went and bought TWO foreclosed homes (moving his family into one and becoming a landlord for the other). Is it not fair to call out their hypocrisy?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 10:26 pm

I'm just not interesting in rehashing these tired old talking points. I want to have a more intelligent conversation.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 10:50 pm

Yeah I dislike Brugmann and Daly because their policies fucked up San Francisco. But I HATE them because they're hypocrites. I disagree with Tim Redmond, because as much as you and other progressives don't believe in it, he was always an advocate of free speech and put his money where his mouth was. I think he's an out of date hippie, but I respect him because he is true to what he believes. Brugmann and Daly don't. You just want the BG to be an echo chamber where every spouts the party line.

The funniest thing is you bitch about my hating Brugmann and Daly and how you want more intelligent conversation, BUT you still can't refute my claim about their hypocrisy. Give me an intelligent argument about either of them not being a hypocrite.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 11:10 pm

I'd like to see a discussion of the VM in the comment section. If you want to talk about why you hate Brugmann and Daly, you can have a monologue with yourself on that topic. I've said all I want to say on that subject.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 11:31 pm

Still walking away from the subject. Which was Brugmann bringing up how bad developers are yet who he sold out to. You can't face that fact. You do not have ONE argument against Brugmann's and Daly's hypocrisy, do you? Face it. You have no rebuttal. All you can do is redirect the topic. Why don't you just go off on some random thread and tell people how the US should go and follow Venezuela's economic policies?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 11:53 pm

except that there was a political witch-hunt of the best actress for the role because of something irrelevant to the performance - her politics.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 7:59 am

then said actress (have yet to see a good defense of why she was the "best") would never have been hired in the first place. Her politics were out in the open and she was still hired. Alonzo went beyond that and recorded a commercial for someone who is antithetical not just to the politics of the audience, but to their very existence in this country, a guy who helped found the murderous Minutemen. If Lopez hadn't gotten rid of her, it would've jeapordized the whole production.

Ironically, if Lopez had practiced a political witch hunt and quietly just passed over hiring Alonzo in favor of someone else, because of Alonzo's politics, the controversy would never have happened.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 8:31 am

thinks you are the best for the job. If the job offer then gets withdrawn because of your liberal politics even though that has nothing to do with job performance, you would simply accept that, right?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 8:40 am

race theory?

Now you are saying that obeying the laws of America is attempting remove some race?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 8:50 am

be disappointed. His posts are mere opportunism.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 9:04 am

or because it is non sense directed at men which you happen to be one of?

You don't mind general wacky feminism, it's just when you may be the target that it bothers you?

Posted by guest on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 10:54 pm

There's a particular, nasty strain of man-hating, sex-negative feminism that isn't shared by all or most feminists. Yeah, I think the Mary Daly/Andrea Dworkin strain of feminism is whack. While Eve Ensler isn't quite that extreme, VM seems to have enough elements of that to warrant criticism from even other feminists.

Other than that extreme type of feminism, I'm not sure what other aspects of feminism you find "wacky?" The idea of equal pay for equal work? The idea that women should be able to control their bodies? Tell me, Guest, which of these aspects of mainstream feminism do you find "generally wacky?"

Posted by Greg on Feb. 17, 2014 @ 11:12 pm

Good to see that Bruce is a supporter of politically sanitized theater, with politically sanitized performers.

He'd love East Germany.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 7:12 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 7:59 am

The East German Stazi can only wish they had the kind of surveillance state that the United States has.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 8:03 am

So why hasn't Eliana headed back to Venezuela to help out her buddy Maduro?

There are counterrevolutionaries in the streets, and trained cultural shock workers like Eliana are needed to explain that all the shortages in Venezuela are the result of capitalism.

We also need trained cultural shock workers like Greg and Marcos to go to Venezuela to explain to the Venezuelan masses that toilet paper is overrated, and that the masses should not be concerned when toilet paper is not available in the Bolivarian state.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 8:13 am

They's be wailing and whining for their artisan coffee and their craft beers.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 8:27 am

When there are so many problems here in the country that I live in?

Posted by Greg on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 9:25 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 9:37 am

And haul away members of your family without cause?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 8:28 am

Of course I'm not a whistleblower or journalist or someone the government deems particularly dangerous right now. As far as hauling away family members of people the government doesn't like, they didn't even do that in East Germany. The only countries I can think of that practice that kind of collective punishment today are North Korea, and Israel in the occupied territories. No analogy is perfect; the methods of social control here are different here than they were in various other regimes. But I would argue that they're no less effective.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 10:53 am

Yeah, because living in the United States is ***just like*** living under the Stasi, only worse.

Do you ever listen to yourself?

Have you ever talked to someone who's lived in an actual Communist country?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 11:07 am

logic in order to believe the most ridiculous things, just because they support the ideology that he is doomed to advocate for reasons that probably even he doesn't understand.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 11:24 am

I've lived under dictatorship myself.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 11:41 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 11:57 am

You have no clue who I am or where I'm from, and I'd like to keep it that way.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 9:58 pm

I've known Greg for some time and I know where he's from and, yes, he's actually lived under a real live dictatorship.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 10:08 pm

Of course, Marcos views Texas as a "real live dictatorship", so who knows where Greg is from...

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 10:58 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 10:38 am

"yes, he's actually lived under a real live dictatorship."

Five will get you ten that Greg did a stint with the International Solidarity Movement, and the "real live dictatorship" he lived under was Israeli. (Using the term "dictatorship" advisedly, of course - Israel is a democratic paradise, compared to any other state in the Middle East.)

He couldn't have possibly grown up in a "real live dictatorship", and kept his current political views.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 11:14 pm

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