By Mary Boyle
First Stage in Milwaukee, a national leader in theatre for young audiences, has a reputation for producing world premiere plays. This past season, they upped their commitment to this endeavor by creating the Foundry Stage Series, which is dedicated to forging the future of theater though emerging plays, artists, and engaging experiences beyond the stage. Besides producing new work, this series includes workshops, additional talk-backs, hosting new play readings, and the addition of an expanded Playwrights-in-Residence program. Alvaro Saar Rios is one of four playwrights-in-residence this season at First Stage, and his play, ON THE WINGS OF MARIPOSA, which was one of the new works that went through a reading last season, is this season's Foundry Stage Series World Premiere play.
Based on the story Ghost Wings, written by Ozaukee author Barbara Joosse, On the Wings of Mariposa is a celebration of Mexican and Latino culture, coinciding with Hispanic Heritage Month and Día de los Muertos celebrations, as well as a beautiful tale of family, love and loss.
Ten year old Pilar (Abby Hanna/Dayanara Sanchez) has recently lost her beloved Abuelita (Laura Crotte). Before she passed, Abuelita brought Pilar to her favorite place: a part of the forest called El Círculo Mágico (the circle of magic), where the monarch butterflies (mariposas) return to every spring in Mexico. According to Abuelita, the monarchs are more than just beautiful: they carry the souls of our loved ones. When Pilar wraps her grandmother's rebozo (shawl) around her, she breathes in her Abuelita's scent and it brings back all of the beautiful memories, but the memories begin to fade as the scent does, even when she returns to the forest. With the help of her Mami (Rána Roman) and her friends, Amparo (Catalina Cruz/Stephanie Santoyo-Bustos) and Ramiro (Rafael Cervantes/Enzo Velasco), Pilar works to get her memories back in time for Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead).
Directed by Karen Estrada, a First Stage alumni and Milwaukee actor, director and educator, On The Wings of Mariposa is a bilingual production that not only highlights Hispanic culture, but particularly showcases Milwaukee's own Hispanic community, from Director Saar Rios, who also wrote the award-winning play Luchadora!, which made its world premiere at First Stage in 2015, to Music Director Dinorah Márquez, who founded the award-winning Latino Arts Strings Program at the United Community Center in Milwaukee, which recorded Márquez's original music and lyrics for the production. Rána Roman, who plays Pilar's mother, is a graduate of the Milwaukee High School of the Arts and a regular on Milwaukee stages; in fact, she will play Eva Perón, Latin America's famous First Lady, this season at Skylight in Evita.
Though the play is bilingual, audience members need not be to understand the story; as a matter of fact, the production is an excellent immersion into Spanish language, as well as a cultural experience. Moreover, the story is a beautiful example of dealing with the death of a loved one. Sweet and a bit sad, On the Wings of Mariposa is a touching reminder that "when you love someone, they never really leave you."
ON THE WINGS OF MARIPOSA runs through November 10th at the Todd Wehr Theatre, located at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets may be purchased by calling (414) 267-2961 or online at www.FirstStage.org. There are several special events scheduled in conjunction with the performance, including:
Sat, Oct 26 at 1pm or 3:30pm
Día de los Muertos celebrations
Browse our MERCADITO (Artisan Market) in the upper lobby.
Create Mexican crafts
Pre-show music by Latino Arts Strings Program
Sun, Oct 27 at 1pm
MERCADITO, Mexican crafts, and music Latino Arts Strings Program
Tech Talk – an extended talkback about the creation of the play – following the performance.
Fri, Nov 1 at 7pm
College & Young Professionals Night Inquire at (414) 267-2961
Sun, Nov 3 at 3:30pm
Tech Talk following the 3:30pm performance.
Sat, Nov 9 at 7pm
Sensory Friendly Performance. Tickets by phone at (414) 267-2961.
Sun, Nov 10 at 3:30pm
Sign Language Interpreted performance at 3:30pm
About First Stage
First Stage is one of the nation’s leading theaters for young people and families. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten and entertain. Its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people, fosters life skills through stage skills and serves nearly 2,000 students each year. As Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, First Stage’s dynamic Theater in Education programs promote literacy, character building and experiential learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students each year. First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2012), and was the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’sEureka Award, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education and the arts for its Next Steps program for students on the autism spectrum (2013, 2015). First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Milwaukee Arts Partners and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF). www.firststage.org