Award-winning playwright Melinda Lopez has joined the Boston College Theatre Department as the Rev. J. Donald Monan, S.J. Professor in Theatre Arts for the 2019-2020 academic year.
With a body of work that spans more than two decades, Lopez was called “one of Boston’s most important writers,” by WBUR-FM. She was the 2019 recipient of both the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Award in Dramatic Writing, and the Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence for “consistently enriching the Boston theater community as a playwright, actress and educator.”
At Boston College, Lopez is teaching Contemporary American Theatre this fall and in the spring will lead Playwriting 1. In January, the BC Theatre Department will stage her play “Back the Night,” which explores sexual violence on college campuses; the production will be directed by Boston-based director and educator Pascale Florestal.
Lopez’s plays have been performed around the country at such notable theaters as Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Guthrie Theater, Laguna Playhouse, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Shakespeare and Company, The Huntington Theatre Company, and ArtsEmerson.
As a Cuban-American, Lopez said in a 2015 MCC interview, she intentionally places “brave, complicated, and uncompromising Latina women” at the center of her work, and frequently focuses on the stories of Cuban or Cuban-American characters.
Her most recent work, “Yerma,” is an adaptation and new translation of Federico García Lorca’s play of the same name. Yerma, described as a woman “consumed by her dream of motherhood,” defies her husband and “confronts her community,” which ultimately “propels her into a collision with the universe that is urgent and terrible in scope.” Arts Fuse praised Lopez for “putting her own stamp on the work without disrupting or diverting the play’s dramatic contours.”
Her one-woman show “Mala,” which Lopez wrote and performed, was presented at ArtsEmerson in 2016. “An utterly unsentimental journey towards the end of life,” according to her website, “the play is an irreverent exploration of how we live, cope, and survive in the moment.” WBUR’s The ARTery praised “Mala” as “an exquisitely fashioned theater piece, brimming with humor, frustration, and honesty,” and Boston Magazine called it her “most profound work yet.” “Mala” won the BTCA Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding New Play, and Lopez earned the Arts Impulse Award for Best Solo Performance.
In honor of the world premiere of “Mala”—and in recognition of her many accomplishments—Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh proclaimed October 29, 2016, as “Melinda Lopez Day” in the city, and urged “fellow Bostonians to celebrate her enormous contribution to the theatre field both locally and throughout the world.”
Lopez was Huntington Theatre Company’s playwright-in-residence from 2013 to 2019, through the Mellon Foundation National Playwright Residency Program. Her other honors and achievements include being named a “Woman of Courage Honoree” by La Alianza Hispana; the Kennedy Center’s inaugural Charlotte Woolard Award, given to “a promising new voice in American theatre”; and awards from the Independent Reviewers of New England and BTCA for her play “Sonia Flew.”
Also an accomplished actress, Lopez has performed at regional theaters across the country. An assistant professor of playwriting at Boston University and a visiting lecturer of theatre and performance at Wellesley College, Lopez has a master’s degree in playwriting from BU and a bachelor’s degree in drama from Dartmouth College.
Offering her advice for new playwrights in a 2017 interview, she said, “Write what you want to write. Tell the truth. Be good to everyone you work with and work for. Listen to actors. Have faith, have faith, have faith.”
The Monan Professorship in Theatre Arts was established in 2007 by a gift to Boston College in honor of the late University Chancellor and former BC President J. Donald Monan, S.J. The position, which also commemorates the late trustee E. Paul Robsham, enables the Theatre Department to bring nationally and internationally known professionals to Boston College to teach and work with undergraduate students. Previous Monan professors include actor Maurice Parent, Nederlander Executive Vice President Nick Scandalios ’87, playwright Sheri Wilner, director/actor Michelle Miller ’98, and director/actor Tina Packer, among others.
—University Communications | September 2019