Last September, Sandra Cisneros, the award-winning author of The House on Mango Street, attended a performance of Amy Ludwig’s theatrical adaptation of her novel at San Antonio’s Classic Theatre – and wept.
In an email she later sent to director José Rubén De Leon, she said: “Thank you for working so hard to make this production respectful and loving. It came out bonito bonito. Filled with grace and made me proud to call this performance something connected to me.”
A celebrated coming-of-age story, The House on Mango Street chronicles a year in the life of Esparanza Cordero, a young girl who longs to escape her impoverished Latino neighborhood to fulfill her dreams of becoming a writer. Ludwig’s adaptation features an ensemble of eight actors playing multiple characters, which requires a lot of stagecraft.
De Leon said, “One of the biggest challenges in staging this piece is the adaptation by Amy Ludwig of Sandra Cisneros’s book of vignettes. Ms. Ludwig splits up the text between two actresses playing the narrator and an ensemble of three men and three women who portray between seven and nine characters each.”
Last year’s production was so well-received that many patrons were unable to obtain tickets, so a special return engagement of seven performances will open this Thursday, April 6. “The impetus behind the revival was the overwhelming response from our San Antonio community,” said De Leon. “Florence Bunten, the box office manager, had to turn many, many people away at each performance. She had a waiting list of at least two pages for many of the performances. After the show closed, I received a telephone call from [the Classic’s Executive Director] Kelly Roush asking if the cast would be interested in and available for a remount. And the entire cast said yes.”
De Leon has an especially personal involvement with the piece. According to the San Antonio Express News, he got to know Cisneros during the time she lived in San Antonio. Of his work, she said, “[José] does what he does out of love. The highest work you can do is what we do out of love on behalf of others.”
He added, “One of the most rewarding parts of being involved in this production is working with an ensemble of actors who contributed their ideas and insights during the staging and character development processes. We worked as a team to make it run as smoothly as possible. Another rewarding part is working with such professional production people and a fantastic stage manager.”
Of the play’s popularity in the Alamo City, he said, “I believe the piece resonates with San Antonio theatergoers because so many of them have read the book. And many in middle and high school and college are reading the book now. And it doesn’t hurt that many San Antonians are familiar with Sandra Cisneros and her many contributions to our community and her support of the visual artists, writers and educators.”
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