The story of resistance against oppression continues at the San Diego Repertory Theatre
By Alejandra Enciso Guzmán
As part of its 2013-2014 season, San Diego Repertory Theatre will present In The Time of the Butterflies. This play, based on the novel by Julia Álvarez, captures part of the lives of the four Mirabal sisters. These women fought against the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, a former president of the Dominican Republic. Their struggle ended with the brutal loss of their lives in 1960.
The adaptation from the novel was done by playwright Caridad Svich. She was first commissioned for the task by the Repertorio Español Theater in New York, where En el tiempo de las mariposas premiered in 2011. “This novel contains an incredible story and Julia is a very important figure. The idea of taking it to the stage came about due to another adaptation I did, La casa de los espíritus in which the themes are similar: Women against resistance, oppression and dictatorship” explained Svich in an interview for SDFP. “When we asked Julia for permission to do the play, she accepted, quite nervous, because it is a great responsibility. Also, part of the Mirabal family is still alive. It is an honor for me to be able to represent it on stage. It’s been in New York for three years now with great success and it has also been done in Uruguay.”
Last year a theater in Minneapolis commissioned a bilingual version of ‘Butterflies’ that was also well received with audiences there. After that, another version for Santa Fe, New Mexico was done. Then the opportunity for San Diego happened. The play, with an original score and choreography, opened on Saturday January 11th.
“The idea was to write a play no more than 90 minutes long without an intermission. The plot starts in the thirties [and continues] all the way to the fifties. The girls are seen as children at first, then we will see them as wives, mothers, until the day of their demise.” Svich read Julia Álvarez’ novel once more in order to capture the voice as well as the rhythm of the writer. “This is a dialogue with the novel. I am not taking the text as is and putting it on stage.”
There is a core male character that will travel through time in order to balance the story. “The novel has a very tender intimacy and I wanted to capture that. Julia has that ability in her process, to go inside the life of each character. To show their dreams, and their fragile moments. It is very subtle, almost impressionist. That is the structure of this play, we will see how it goes.”
In The Time of the Butterflies is directed by Todd Salovey, Associate Artistic Director at San Diego REP and Resident Artist Herbert Siguenza. “They know everybody in theater so I trusted their judgment. It was important for me that the actresses were Latin, that they would be able to sing and be very flexible in their portrayal. People have to believe they are seeing a 10 year old girl and then a 50 year old woman. That is not an easy task and some actors cannot give you that.”
Svich also shared that this play represents women’s fight against tyranny, injustice and censorship. “It’s a story that unfortunately, is not going to end any time soon because that is the way the world is, not only with women but with men as well.”
Even though this montage is based on actual facts that took place in the fifties, Svich explained that it is something that continues to happen. “These type of stories still go on. This is something that has to be said. It’s been done in many ways, but I think that theater being done live has a different impact. And when we come out of the show we stop and think–”What can I do in my society to make it better?”
Svich’s immediate work plans include the Costa Rican adaptation of La casa de los espíritus in February and the Mexican production for Mexico City in March.
She is also working on a play called Cartridge with an English Company. Although she has various parallel projects, this playwright tries to be present in the creative process and rehearsals in order to better feel the last stages of her work. “That bond with the audience is something that simply cannot be imagined. They can describe it to you. But actually being there is a very strong impact. I always learn something from it, you always learn something and that is what matters. It’s my inspiration to keep on working.”
“You think that everybody knows about the Mirabal sisters and their story. But really there are people who know nothing about it at all. When we had the adaptation for Montevideo last year, the director did not know the story. Neither did the actors or the audience. For me, to bring this story again is to remember that it did happen. That this family is still fighting and that they have a voice. We forget very easily about what happens in our countries. Sometimes we do not even connect. The connection between the Americas is of key importance to me. It belongs to us.”
In The Time of the Butterflies will be playing at the Lyceum Space from January 11th thru the 26th. For more information on dates, times and prices please go to: www.sdrep.org
You can find Caridad Svich on twitter as: @
Surrounding activities like lectures and networking sessions with the directors and actors as well as the playwright will take place thru January.
Dedé Mirabal is the only one of the four sisters still living today. She is approximately 85 years old.
The house where the Mirabal sisters lived is now a museum in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
“Butterflies” was a code used as reference for the sisters during that period.
Alejandra Enciso Guzmán is an arts consultant and reporter in both Tijuana and San Diego. @Riselah / @Riselaheng