“En el tiempo de las mariposas”

Live theatre blossoms once again at Muhlenberg

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Photo by Maddi Whiting '22/The Muhlenberg Theater & Dance Department | Alejandra Cepeda Bátiz '23, Maria Isabel Castillo '23, and Alaila Florian '22

From Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, the 2021-2022 departmental season was kicked off with “En El Tiempo De Las Mariposas” (In The Time of the Butterflies). This show was a staged reading performed in the black box theatre in the Center for the Arts. “Mariposas” is a play by Caridad Svich based on the novel by Julia Alvarez. 

The play tells the tale of “the lives of three brave and brilliant women revolutionaries and their equally brave sister. Patria, Dedé, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal, the daughters of Enrique Mirabal Fernandez and Mercedes Reyes Camilo, [who] grew up in the Dominican Republic during the dictatorship of President Rafael Leónidas Trujillo” (excerpted from the program). This specific production was performed as a staged reading which means there was no set, minimal costumes and the performers had their scripts on stage. 

“The cast left their hearts on the stage and everyone in the audience could feel it.”

-Maya Rabinowitz ’24

When describing the impact of a staged reading, assistant director Elizabeth Muriel ’23 stated, “I think staged readings are super impactful because you have to focus on the words. There is no set, no flashy costumes. Just good acting and an important story.” 

The stage was set up with 10 stools. Eight for actors and two for the musicians who play the drums and the violin. As the lights dimmed the actors walked down the stairs, onto the stage and took their places on the stools. What ensued was a moving story of four sisters and their tumultuous attempt at survival in the Dominican Republic under dictator Trujillo. 

Alexandra Rivers ’21 played the role of Older Dedé, “​​the surviving member of the four Mirabal sisters, also known as the revolutionary mariposas. She is strong, wise and has dedicated her life to telling the stories of her sisters,” shared Rivers. 

Muriel shared, “It is so important to see stories featuring powerful women of color. As Old Dedé says in the show, to get to tell a story is a privilege. And to get to tell one about powerful Latinx women and work with such an amazingly talented and diverse group of people was truly humbling.” 

Rivers shared how the show impacted her, saying, “This is my final show at Muhlenberg, and I’ve been saying all week that it is such a perfect one to go out on. There’s something so incredibly powerful about being in a space made up of almost entirely Latinx performers—there’s an understanding and power to our marginalized voices coming together and sharing a story about our community. This show has just made me feel so proud. Proud to be Latina, proud to be sharing this story, proud to work with such an incredible group of performers… just so, so grateful to be a part of this.”  

“The story of the Mirabal sisters is an important story for audiences to experience and I think the cast portrayed these characters and the story beautifully,” says audience member Carlie Nieman ’23.

“We’re strong. We’re important. We come from a long, powerful line of women.” 

-Alexandra Rivers ’22

One of the most touching moments in the show is after the audience learns of the passing of the three sisters. Each actor lights a candle that is the color of their garment and the lights are dimmed. The cast lines up in front of their stools while the lights are dark and the candles illuminate the faces of the three that passed. They then blow out their candles to end the show leaving us in total darkness. The audience was left with chills.

Maya Rabinowitz ‘24 said, “The cast left their hearts on the stage and everyone in the audience could feel it.” 

Rivers spoke about the impact of the show on Muhlenberg’s community, “Growing up in America, our history lessons focus so largely on the stories of white men. So, bringing this story of these strong, badass Latina women to this community is so powerful to me. Especially since these sisters rose to prominence in the 40s, 50s, 60s— a time when women and their impacts were still often overlooked. It’s so important that our community (and beyond) gets to hear the power behind the story of these brave, Latina women and see that we have been making important impacts far beyond what most people around here have heard about. We’re here. We’re strong. We’re important. We come from a long, powerful line of women.” 

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