Two Takes on “Lunch with Sonia” by Loco7

Federico Restrepo, Hope Kroog, Marina Celander and Carolina Correa
Photo by Richard Termine

Cory Villegas rinde homenaje a la oratoria en una respuesta de audio para el programa en español “Lunch with Sonia” de Loco7.

Cory Villegas honors orature in an audio response to the Spanish language performance of Loco7’s “Lunch with Sonia.”

Steven Orrego Upegui, Hope Kroog, Aaron Haskell, Jorge Blanco Munez, Carolina Correa, and Marina Celander. Photo by Richard Termine

An Experience: Lunch With Sonia, By Muriel Peterson

Upon seeing the advertisement for this performance, I had felt a rush of excitement wash over me. Here was Loco7, a Latinx-run Dance Puppet Theatre Company, founded by Colombian-born artist Federico Restrepo! A combination of my passion for dance and theater, along with my love of Latinx culture, topped off with my admiration for puppeteers; it was as if this company was made for me. Yet, as I continued reading the description that the work was about “Restrepo’s true-life experience with his Aunt Sonia, who decided to end her life with dignity at the age of 72 after a long illness,” the words began to jump off the page. Immediately, my heart began to float down the center of my body to the pit of my stomach. “I don’t want to think about death,” I told myself. “It’s scary!” But, my wiser self emerged, whispering: “Why let fear keep you from seeing so many of the things you love.” So, here I was. After finding my seat, and the crowd grew quiet, I sat in anticipation for the performance to begin. Suddenly, a fair-skinned, Latino/x man, wearing all black, with the stance of a matador and the cool of Colombia, appeared. It was Restrepo, the visionary behind this project, who co-wrote and co-directed the show with Denise Greber, while also choreographing, and designing the puppets, lights and sets, as well as starring in it.

Dancing to a recording of his own voice, the story of Aunt Sonia’s (referred to as Tía Sonia) last day on earth began. Moving from one end of the stage to the other, Restrepo’s movement was precise and intriguing. The choreography was large enough to capture the audience’s attention and fill the space without being overpowering; then, the puppets arrived. The first one to grace the stage was a small, metallic blue, wire-like figure. It only took a moment to bring the object to life, and the dancing between the puppeteer and the marionette was seamless. So much so it seemed as if they were one person. A distinction between the two was only present when the choreography shifted from the dancer and the puppet moving in unison to them performing as a duet. In these moments, the bodies of both the dancer and the marionette began to engage in a dialogue. Each conversation was unique in its subject matter but key to understanding the life of Tía Sonia and her decision to end her life via euthanasia.

Hope Kroog, Aaron Haskell, Jorge Blanco Munez, Carolina Correa, and Marina Celander. Photo by Richard Termine.

Once more puppets arrived, so did more dancers. There were sisters and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, neighbors, family friends, and many others played by Steven Orrego Upegui, Hope Kroog, Aaron Haskell, Jorge Blanco Munez, Carolina Correa, and Marina Celander. Their sadness and pain were present; however, it did not overshadow their joy and sincere gratitude for having Tía Sonia. No one wanted that day to end. In fact, knowing that this day represented their last moments with Tía Sonia stirred up a multitude of questions for each individual. For example, why was Tía Sonia choosing this? How could she simply decide to leave all her loved ones behind? And what kind of Catholic was she? Grappling with the teachings of the Catholic Church-Thou Shall Not Kill– and Tía Sonia’s reinforcement of this belief, Upegui performs an introspective solo that represents the difficulty of loving someone whom you feel is being hypocritical. The choreography traveled high into the air and deep down into the floor in order to demonstrate the emotional turmoil of family members who found Tía Sonia’s choice unfathomable. Witnessing the performance of these emotions was both powerful and heart-wrenching. I can only imagine how much more arduous it must have been to live through it.

Despite my initial trepidations about what this performance would be, I have come to realize that it was more about life and the choices you make while living rather than death. Although Tía Sonia does ultimately perish, Restrepo’s work tells the story of a woman who lived on her own terms and therefore decided to stop living on her own terms. In lieu of suffering through the painful process of her health slowly deteriorating, she left this earth happy and surrounded by those who loved her most. In doing so, she was not only able to empower herself but gave her family, friends, and community the most precious gift of all, a proper goodbye.

Although I will never meet Tía Sonia, I am grateful to know her story. If I could relay one message to her, I would say:

¡Gracias Tía Sonia, por su ejemplo, su sabiduría, y su carácter fuerte!

El cuento suyo es un cuento de dignidad, de fé, y el poder de escoger.

Eso es el significado de la vida.

Y la vida suya tuvo importancia para todos.


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