TOURING playwright/actress/director/musician Lola Arias was a little hard to pin down for an interview, but when I got in touch with her, she had a lot to say. The Argentinean was in Bremen, Germany, where she was in the final stages of developing a new play; she was kind enough to answer some questions via email.

MERCURY: The show you're bringing to Portland, El año en que nací (The Year I Was Born), tells the recent history of Chile's dictatorship through the personal stories of the performers. But before this production, you toured the world with Mi vida después (My Life After), a play based on a similar concept of people growing up under Argentina's dictatorship. Did The Year I Was Born evolve from My Life After?

LOLA ARIAS: My Life After was a play that I did in Argentina based on the story of my generation. I was born in 1976, when the military coup took power, and like others from my generation, I was born under this dark cloud. In My Life After, the six performers reconstruct the life of their parents with personal documents (family photos, letters) and also memories. The idea was to have two generations looking at each other, like a mirror between their youth and our youth 30 years later. The Year I Was Born uses the same concept, but the play is totally different. I think the Chilean version is more polemic, more rude. You see how Chilean society is still divided on how to evaluate what happened, who to blame, how to judge....

The Year I Was Born has a strong musical component. Did you compose original songs based on the stories of this cast, or how did that come together?

I work with a musician called Ulises Conti. Sometimes we compose songs thinking about the biography of the people; sometimes we work with the performers to develop some musical identity. In this piece, Conti worked with cast member Alejandro Gómez to create all kinds of atmospheres with electric guitars. And at the very end of the play, all the performers play electric guitar together and it feels like your brain is going to explode.

Is there any historical context that would be helpful for an audience to know before they see the show?

You don't need to study Chilean history to see the piece! Just come with your eyes wide open.