Back in September, we kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month with Repertorio Español’s opening of the reggaeton inspired musical, “La canción.” They invited us back this February for their current headlining play—“En El Nombre de Salomé.” Adapted from Julia Alvarez’s novel of the same name, the play takes a bit more serious of a tone than “La canción,” but still focuses on the importance of finding one’s truth and identity. It explores the Dominican Republic’s sometimes overlooked, yet most influential founding mothers. Founding fathers can step aside, as it’s the women who really make their mark in this play.
The play is structured as a story within a story, where Camila Henriquez Ureña recounts events from her life and how they’re interconnected with her mother Salomé’s story. Born in the Dominican Republic in 1850, Salomé may not seem immediately relatable to modern day viewers, but she soon proves that she was a #nastywoman before her time. While she doesn’t rebel from the patriarchy, she works within the confines of the male dominated Dominican society to express her voice—first with her father and then with her husband. Her father demands she stick to writing poetry rather than interfering in politics. For this, she has a cheeky response: how do you separate the two? Her poignant descriptions of the beauty of the Dominican Republic are part of what define the Dominican experience during a crucial time when the country is under constant threat of territorial wars with Haiti.
Later, Salomé is instrumental in beginning the first higher education institution for women in the Dominican Republic. Some students attend lessons in secret, telling their fathers that they are learning how to be homemakers. Yet behind closed doors, politics and philosophy—not pots and pans—are the focus of the conversation. Salomé’s husband, who at one point becomes president of the Dominican Republic, faces constant setbacks in the turbulent political climate, but Salomé’s center for learning thrives. Her daughter Camila is the embodiment of her success, as she becomes a scholar and educator in the United States, as well as a political activist and fighter. While the political climate may have been too conservative for Salomé to fully exercise her voice, she paved the way for her daughter and other pupils to pick up where she left off.
Julia Alvarez is perhaps better known for her examination of biculturalism and stereotypes associated with Latinas in the United States, but “En el Nombre de Salomé” demonstrates that her reach goes far beyond these modern day experiences. She is a true literary historian through her writing, tying the Dominican Republic’s past to the present. Salomé’s struggle for equal rights and independence isn’t such a far cry from the injustices in today’s world.
We don’t want to spoil too much of the play, so you’ll have to head to the Repertorio Español for the full Salomé experience. You’ve got the historical context, but there’s still plenty of humor, sassiness, and tender moments for you to enjoy. The show opened on February 11—just in time for Dominican Independence Day and Women’s History Month—and will continue through June 23. If there’s anything that we can learn from Julia Alvarez and the women in this play, it’s that the past, and not just the future, is female. So get your tickets here, sit back, and be ready to be inspired.