Eliana Lopez, wife of San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who found herself in the middle of a political controversy in 2012 amid allegations of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, will tell her side of the story tonight in her one-woman play.
“What is the Scandal?” debuts at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, located at 2868 Mission St., and will run through June 7.
The 70-minute play is performed mostly in Spanish, with English subtitles.
In her performance, Lopez plays 12 characters, some of whom are combinations of different people involved in the events that led up to her husband’s 2012 suspension from his position as sheriff by Mayor Ed Lee after pleading guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment for an incident in which he grabbed his wife’s arm during an argument, causing a bruise.
An accomplished actress who has been in film, theater and television productions in her native Venezuela, Lopez, 39, admitted this performance was difficult for her.
“There are moments when I’m rehearsing and I get so emotional,” Lopez said. “This play has really been a time to reflect, a time to heal.”
Lopez, who describes the play as “a love story, with a political frame,” said she decided to take on the performance because she felt like she and her husband had been demonized in the public eye.
“I want to show the other side of the story. The human beings that we are and the impact that this had on my son and on myself,” she said.
Lopez said it took a year to write the script, with the assistance of her brother, Alfonso Lopez, who is also the director.
Through her different incarnations, Lopez describes in detail their Dec. 31, 2011, argument, including her reasons for allowing a neighbor to film the aftermath, the effect a seven-month no contact order had on their young son, the hearings held by the city’s Ethics Commission that went on for months, and their eventual reunification.
Mirkarimi, who is up for reelection this Fall, said although he has not yet seen the production, he is supportive of his wife.
“What Eliana is doing is courageous and I am proud of her. She is an accomplished actor and through her craft, finally, her voice gets heard,” Mirkarimi said in an email.
Lopez said she also hopes to address issues regarding race and the part it plays in cases of domestic violence.
“I think this was all racial bias. If I were white, and I said ‘look this is not domestic violence. He grabbed my arm, he made a mistake, and we need counseling. Stop.’ And people would have stopped,” Lopez said.
“This happens to Latinos, people of color and poor people. These kinds of things don’t happen to rich people… If they say ‘we need counseling,’ everyone respects their privacy,” Lopez said.
“The system is not really working to support families. And the dangerous cases are few. You cannot treat 90 percent of the cases the same way, like all of them are murder. It’s not right,” Lopez said.
Daniel Montes, Bay City News