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Asked to Adapt a Classic Play, This Writer Rethought Her Life

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In 2018, as part of a masters program in playwriting at Hunter College in Manhattan, Mara Vélez Meléndez was given a life-changing assignment: adapt a classic play.

She chose “John Gabriel Borkman,” a rarely revived late Ibsen play about an ambitious banker, and in her reworking, the characters became members of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, created in 2016 by the U.S.

federal government to resolve the island’s debt crisis. The resulting work, “Notes on Killing Seven Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Board Members,” recently opened at Soho Rep in Manhattan.

But when Vélez Meléndez, now 29, embarked on the project, she knew little about the board, or “la junta” as it’s known colloquially in her native Puerto Rico, other than that a large percentage of the population was against its unelected power to oversee the island’s budget.

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