Eliana Lopez’s Voice No Longer Silent in ‘What is the Scandal?’

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in Arts/Entertainment, Politics

Tagged: , ,

Published on May 30, 2015 with 3 Comments

Eliana Lopez during a media-only performance of 'What is the Scandal?'  Photos by Luke Thomas.

Eliana Lopez during a media-only performance of ‘What is the Scandal?’ Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Luke Thomas

May 30, 2015

Eliana Lopez, the wife of San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, presented her new play ‘What Is the Scandal? / ¿Cuál es el Escándalo?’ to an ovation-standing audience of media professionals Thursday.

Showing at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts (8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 6 p.m. Sundays; closes June 7), Scandal provides a long-overdue voice for Lopez who found herself at the center of a sensationalized political ‘scandal’ in 2012, overblown by a media frenzy and stoked by anti-Mirkarimi political forces.

To recap, Lopez and Mirkarimi got into a heated argument one week before Mirkarimi was officially sworn into office over a trip Lopez wanted to take, to visit Lopez’s family in Venezuela with the couple’s son. Mirkarimi opposed the trip over security concerns, exacerbated by childhood fears of abandonment. The ensuing emotionally-charged disagreement resulted in an arm-grab, causing a bruise on Lopez’s arm.

At the urging of Lopez’s neighbor, Ivory Madison, a video was made by Madison of the bruise, to be used, Madison advised, as legal leverage against Mirkarimi in the event of divorce proceedings or a custody battle. Unbeknownst to Lopez, however, and against her wishes, Madison filed a police complaint, triggering an avalanche of political and legal troubles for the Mirkarimi-Lopez family, not least of which included months of court-mandated physical separation. Through it all, Lopez’s protests were effectively dismissed and silenced.

For Mirkarimi’s political opponents, Madison’s video in the hands of authorities was a gift that could be used to destroy the independent populist who made enemies as District 5 Supervisor for his successful efforts to reduce street and violent crime through mandatory foot patrols, among other legislative efforts.  Mirkarimi also opposed the appointment of then City Administrator Ed Lee as interim mayor.

Through Scandal, Lopez is provided a stage to tell her side of the story through the dramatic art she has honed for years as a celebrated soap-opera star in Venezuela, daring to confront an incomplete but prevailing narrative while maintaining sensitivity around domestic violence.

Eliana Lopez.

Eliana Lopez.

An accomplished actor who first began studying theatre and drama when she was 15, Lopez tells her story through an amalgam of real and fictionalized characters, including her mother and father; Mirkarimi, her son, her nameless neighbor (Madison), and “Mr. Lie”, a bespectacled, mustached figure bearing a somewhat convincing resemblance to Mayor Ed Lee, (save for the female form).

One of the fictionalized characters in Lopez' play is a man named "Mr. Lie".

One of the fictionalized characters in Lopez’ play is a bespectacled, mustached man man named “Mr. Lie”.

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Lopez play acts a long distance telephone conversation with her parents.

"I don't get it. Why did you betray me?"

“I don’t get it. Why did you betray me?”

“This is a work of fiction – any resemblance to the truth is pure coincidence,” the play disclaims via a projector, which is also used to display bilingual (Spanish/English) translations of the script during the performance.

Co-written with her brother, Alfonso Lopez, and produced by Carolina Agudero, Scandal tells the story of how Lopez met Mirkarimi, their ensuing love-affair, their marriage (and awkward dance fails), the birth of their son, Mirkarimi’s successful campaign for Sheriff of San Francisco, and how her world and the world of her family was suddenly turned upside down following Mirkarimi’s arrest on spousal abuse charges.

Ultimately, reasoned heads prevailed following a nine-month legal and administrative ordeal, with Mirkarimi’s reinstatement to office and the lifting of a precautious stay away order. For Mirkarimi, the experience was humbling, forcing introspection and resulting in him becoming “a better man, a better husband and a better sheriff.”

For Lopez, as she extols in Scandal, “Today we live happily and full of love and joy.”

“Today we live happily and full of love and joy.”

“Today we live happily and full of love and joy.”

The question some may now be asking is whether Scandal can help Mirkarimi during what is expected to be a difficult re-election campaign. Some will say the political damage done is unrecoverable, especially for an elected official in charge of law enforcement. But, just as Mirkarimi’s law enforcement reforms are centered around rehabilitation and redemption, Lopez’s voice may help voters re-examine the so-called ‘scandal’ in a more balanced and less condemnatory light.

This is San Francisco, after all.

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the SanFranciscoSentinel.com, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched FogCityJournal.com. The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7×7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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  • h. brown

    Great review,

    It was interesting to see Bruce Brugman sitting next to Chuck Nevius.

    Also, Evelyn Nieves was there supporting Eliana. This entire

    thing was a gang attack by the right-wing to dislodge one of only two

    Progressive City-wide office holders (Adachi is other) by Lee and

    Gascon.

    So far Ed Lee is the loser here. He’s covered for years the

    ‘husband-beater’, Hayes-White whose troops voted her out but were ignored

    by City Hall.

    Last week to take out papers to run for Mayor.

    So far, no Progressive of stature has stood up to challenge the 1% lackey.

    Go Giants!

  • Tami

    Fantastic review of a beautiful and compelling original one woman play! Thank you!

  • Flubert

    All things considered, I think I am going with the video version.