There was a full house on Wednesday, May 29th at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, when First Stage presented a sneak peek of their upcoming world premiere ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA, running October 18th through November 10th at the Todd Wehr Theater in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, during Hispanic Heritage Month and Día de los Muertos celebrations. The event featured a reading of two scenes from the play, a live performance by young musicians from Latino Arts Strings Program, and a discussion with the creative team behind this bi-lingual production.
ON THE WINGS OF THE MARIPOSA is based on the children’s book Ghost Wings, written by local and renowned children’s book author Barbara Joosse, who has most recently written Lulu & Rocky in Milwaukee.
ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA is the heartwarming story of ten-year-old Pilar, who uses her grandmother’s rebozo to relive memories of her beloved abuelita — making corn tortillas, dueling the monsters under the bed and journeying to the forest known as El Círculo Mágico, where Monarch butterflies spend their winters. As time passes the scent fades, and with it, Pilar’s memories. Set amidst the monarch butterflies’ annual migration and Día de los Muertos celebrations, this beautiful tale of Mexican culture and traditions reminds us that “when you love someone, they never really leave you.”
First Stage Artistic Director Jeff Frank was deeply touched by the story, and he asked playwright Alvaro Saar Ríos to write a play based on Ghost Wings. “While I was reading this beautifully written book, which reads almost like poetry, I felt music all around me. That’s when I decided to contact our beloved Dinorah Márquez, founder and director of Latino Arts Strings Program, to write the music for this heartwarming play,” says Alvaro Saar Ríos, author of the award-winning LUCHADORA! and Assistant Professor at UW-Milwaukee.
“I had never written music for a play and my first thought was that Alvaro didn’t know what he was getting himself into,” added Dinorah. “As I read both the book and the script, little by little the story became my own. During the time I was to write and arrange the music for this play, my own mother — my daughter’s and my nephew’s Abuelita — passed away. The music that resulted has been part of our grieving process as well as a celebration of her life.”
It’s in Michoacán where, every year, hundreds of millions of Monarch butterflies hibernate after a journey of almost three thousand miles from Canada and the United States. They survive by congregating in Michoacán’s oyamel fir trees. Dinorah added: “My father’s family is from Michoacán, where the story takes place. Our ancestors handed down to us the knowledge that the Monarcas are the souls of our ancestors returning to us every year. I have been to the sanctuary of the Monarch butterflies, before it became a huge tourist destination and when the Monarch population was 80% larger than it is today. The place was truly magical and, regardless of your beliefs, the spirits of our ancestors were most definitely there.”
With ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA, First Stage wanted to produce a story that will bring together Milwaukee’s diverse communities, in celebration of Mexican and Latino values, culture and traditions. The production is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, in collaboration with Latino Arts and the United Community Center.
ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA is a play for all families. Family Packages of three or more plays in First Stage’s 2019/20 season are on sale now, and single tickets for ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA and other First Stage plays are on sale August 5. Learn more at www.firststage.org/mariposa.
For more information, please contact:
First Stage Community Engagement Manager