The play is a musical adaptation of Sandra Cisneros‘ classic book by the same name.
I found out about the play through Dunreith’s meeting Tanya Saracho, who adapted the book to the stage, at a professional lunch.
The co-founder of Teatro Luna, Saracho poke in an interview in the play’s program bill about the impact the book had on her as a young Latina.
While it may be hard for some to believe, it’s been a full 25 years since Mango Street was first published.
A combination of autobiography and the compilation of stories Cisneros heard while working with at-risk teenagers, the book is a collection of vignettes told through the eyes of Esperanza, a bookish girl who moves with her family to a ramshackle house on Mango Street after stops in many different locations (In the play’s opening and closing numbers, the cast members sing the street names of where the family lived before concluding. “Before that/I don’t remember.”).
Cisneros’ book shows in moving and unflinching the detail the challenges Esperanza faces in navigating the demands her family places on her as the oldest child and a girl, the physical changes her body is going through as a budding young woman, the difficulties of making friends in a new neighborhood and the perils of the street.
Saracho’s approach is a combination of straight lifting from the text of the book -one of my favorite chapters, where Esperanza talks about her name, is an example of this-and taking some liberties with the spirit of it through the dialogue, musical numbers and meditations that Esperanza often shares while sitting or standing near the skinny tree with bony elbows that stands outside her house.
All in all, the play, which runs until November 8 and which was intended largely for young adult audiences, came off quite well.
It certainly made me want to go back and take another look at the slender volume that launched Cisneros’ career and that has been a source of affirmation for countless young women in similar situations.