Teatro Chelsea presents North American premiere of ‘Sonia se fue’
Teatro Chelsea, Boston’s newest bilingual theater company, debuts the North American premiere of “Sonia se fue,” Jan. 14-17. In this Spanish translation of “Sonia Flew” by local playwright Melinda Lopez, Sonia is reminded painfully of her childhood in Cuba when her son decides to enlist in the army in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“What really attracted me was this dual narrative of someone who embodies these two different cultures,” says Teatro Chelsea Program Director Armando Rivera, who directs the show. “That seemed to me to fit right into the mold of what our mission is, which is reflecting bilingual and bicultural narratives of Latino people.”
Transforming the play into an online medium has given the production team the opportunity to share their work with friends and relatives globally. Rivera says that this will be the first time his family in Puerto Rico has been able to see one of his shows, and they’ll be able to hear it in their own native tongue.
“Sonia se fue” has presented an interesting rumination on translation as well. In a panel discussion on Jan. 7, Rivera and Lopez chatted with Hartford Stage artistic director Melia Bensussen and Tufts professor and translator Noe Montez about how a play changes from one translation to another.
Lopez wrote “Sonia Flew” in English for an American audience in 2003. In 2018 the Spanish translation, adapted by Alberto Sarraín, was presented in Havana and Camaguey, Cuba. Lopez was struck by the different needs of the translation. The original, for example, contained a lot of exposition that a Latino audience, particularly a Cuban audience familiar with Castro’s reign, wouldn’t need.
Teatro Chelsea launched with the mission of telling Latino stories and exploring cross-cultural experiences in its productions. “Sonia se fue” is its first full-length production. Performances will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube with English subtitles. Prior registration is requested. Each performance will be followed by a talkback with actors, the playwright and special guests.
Though Teatro Chelsea is launching at an unexpected and challenging time for theater, Rivera hopes it will become an essential part of Chelsea’s art scene and revitalization. The theater was named with the city and its people in mind. “This is an area where Latino culture is celebrated, not only in the arts but for music and for food,” he says. “When it’s safe and its time to do that we want to open the doors for everybody to come over to Chelsea and to support the city.”