Touching, Joy-filled Celebration of Family ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA opens First Stage’s 2019/20 main stage season

Directed by Karen Estrada


Milwaukee, WI – September 24, 2019 – First Stage begins its 2019/20 main stage season with ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA, a lyrical, bilingual play written by Playwright-in-Residence Alvaro Saar Rios. This world premiere production is adapted from the book Ghost Wingsby popular Milwaukee author Barbara Joosse, features original music and lyrics by Dinorah Márquez and is a collaboration with Latino Arts Strings Program and United Community Center. Ten-year-old Pilar breathes deeply of 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. Slowly, the scent begins to fade – and with it, Pilar’s memories of her grandmother. Amidst the monarch butterflies’ annual migration and Día de los Muertos celebrations, audiences can soar with Pilar on her journey as she discovers that “when you love someone, they never really leave you.” Supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.


ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA runs October 18 – November 10, 2019 at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater, located at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Marcus Center Box Office at 929 N. Water Street, by phone at (414) 273-7206 or online at Performance runtime is approximately 90 minutes, including intermission. Suggested for families with young people ages 5 – 17+.


Artistic Director Jeff Frank shared how ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA came to fruition: “With over three years in development,the creation of this play has been a journey markedby joy, heart and an amazing collaborative spirit. While we were working on LOVABYE DRAGON, a musical adapted from Barbara Joosse’s Dragon and Girl books, our Community Engagement Manager Lucia Lozano shared another book by Barbara – Ghost Wings. I found the journey of this young girl in Ghost Wingsstruggling with the loss of her abuelita – her grandmother – incredibly touching. I reached out to playwright Alvaro Saar Rios who we had worked with us before (MOLE HILL STORIES and LUCHADORA!) to see if he might be interested in working on this project. He also fell in love with the story and agreed to take on the challenge of adapting it for the stage. We both felt that Dinorah Márquez, director of the Latino Arts Strings Program, would be an incredible asset for us. I met with Dinorah, and discovered that this beautiful story that Barbara had written was set in the area of Mexico where Dinorah’s family had grown up. She eagerly joined the team. One more piece of the puzzle came into place when the amazing First Stage alum and actor, Karen Estrada, agreed to direct the play.”


Jeff continued, “We can’t wait to bring this touching, joy-filled celebration of family to our audiences. The power of the story, combined with music composed by Dinorah and recorded with students from Latino Arts Strings Program, will make this a play we will all long remember.”


Director Karen Estrada added, “In our play, one small human learns from countless generations how to put ritual in place to soothe grief, celebrate life and make friends with the aching joy of being human. She is unique, yet also entirely part of the whole. . . . We, our little community of theater-makers, are so pleased to tell you this story to remind you that we all share this particular migration, to remind you that you are not alone, to comfort you in your unique grief and to hold you in the awe of our shared humanity.”


To learn more about the story on how ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA came together, please visit:




Alvaro Saar Rios (Playwright) is a Playwright in Residence at First Stage. Other plays he has written for First Stage are MOLE HILL STORIES and the award-winning LUCHADORA! His plays have been performed in New York City, Chicago, Hawaii, St. Louis, California, Arizona and all over Texas. He is a Resident Playwright at Chicago Dramatists, and in his past life, he drove tanks for the U.S. Army. Mr. Rios and his wife Michelle Lopez-Rios are the founders of The Royal Mexican Players. Alvaro has an M.F.A. from Northwestern University and teaches playwriting at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 2020, LUCHADORA!will be produced in Mexico City.


Barbara Joosse (Author) is an American children’s writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has been writing for children for over 30 years. She has published 38 books for children, both picture books and chapter books. Through her writing, she aspires to find the things that are the same, and the things that are different, between us all. She has toured worldwide to promote her books, which have been translated into 28 languages.


Karen Estrada (Director) is an actor, director and educator who has made her artistic home here in Milwaukee – a home whose foundation was laid by attending First Stage Theater Academy and performing in the Todd Wehr Theater as a teenager. As an adult, Karen has performed in a dozen productions with First Stage and is a lead teacher for First Stage’s Next Steps program. Karen has taught at many other schools of theater including MITY, Waukesha Civic, Sunset Playhouse and Next Act Theatre’s Next Actors program. She has performed with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Renaissance Theaterworks, Next Act Theatre, Skylight Music Theatre, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, In Tandem and is a proud three-time alumna of the Disney on Classic tour of Japan and Taiwan. She has directed at Chamber Theatre’s Young Playwrights Festival and Renaissance’s Br!NK Festival, as well as ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA for First Stage’s Foundry Stage series.


Dinorah Márquez (Music Director) was born in Mexico City. At the age of 10, she immigrated with her family to El Paso, Texas, where she began her musical studies with violinists James Angerstein and Abraham Chavez. In 2002, Dinorah established the national award-winning Latino Arts Strings Program (LASP), which serves the Bruce Guadalupe Community Schools and its graduates. The LASP has given her the opportunity to provide immigrant Latino children with musical training she received as an immigrant child.




Laura Crotte (Abuelita/Movement & Dialect Coach) is thrilled to be at First Stage, hailing from Chicago – where her credits include: LA RUTA La (Steppenwolf Theatre Company); YASMINA’S NECKLACE (16thStreet); PEDRO PÁRAMO, THE SINS OF SOR JUANA (Teatrovista); MARIELA IN DESERT, ELECTRICIDAD (Goodman Theatre); ESPERANZA RISING (Chicago Children´s Theatre)and INTO THE BEAUTIFUL NORTH, BLIND MOUTH SINGING, ANOTHER PART OF HOUSE and THE MADRES (La Troupe San Miguel). She adapted, directed and produced BLOOD WEDDING (Goodman Theatre), a Mexican musical; Laurahas solo performed Mexican cultural programs around schools, libraries and community centers, national and internationally.


Rána Roman (Mom/Ensemble) is a Milwaukee native and a proud graduate of Milwaukee High School of the Arts. She was last seen at First Stage in BIG FISH (Witch), MOLE HILL STORIES (Cucu) and SUESSICAL (Mayzie). Rána has most recently been seen in KISS ME KATE (Lilli/Kate) at Skylight Music Theatre, LIFE SUCKS (Ella) at Forward Theater of Madison and in A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Mrs. Cratchit) at Milwaukee Repertory Theater. She will be reprising her role as Mrs. Cratchit this Christmas and will play Eva Péron in EVITA, this spring at Skylight.


The adult cast for ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA at First Stage includes: Laura Crotte, Member of Actor’s Equity Association, as Abuelita and Rána Roman, Member of Actor’s Equity Association, as Mom/Ensemble.




Young Performer roles are double cast. Young Performers in the Algodoncillo Cast include: 

Abby Hanna (from Franklin) as Pilar; Catalina Cruz (from Milwaukee) as Amparo; Rafael Cervantes (from Milwaukee) as Ramiro; Marilyn De La O (from Milwaukee) as Raton/Ensemble; Daniela Munoz-Munguia (from Milwaukee) as Ensemble; Andrea Hanna (from Franklin) as Ensemble; Thomas Bastardo (from St. Francis) as Ensemble; Niya Marie Iniguez (from Cudahy) as Ensemble; Carolina Islas (from Milwaukee) as Ensemble and Gabriela Bastardo (from St. Francis) as Ensemble.


Young Performers in the Oyamel Cast include: Dayanara Elize Sanchez (from New Berlin) as Pilar; Stephanie Santoyo-Bustos (from Milwaukee) as Amparo; Enzo Velasco (from Milwaukee) as Ramiro; Lucia Harris (from Fox Point) as Raton/Ensemble; Zamarah Martinez-Santa Anna (from Milwaukee) as Ensemble; Leslie Aranda (from Milwaukee) as Ensemble; Iker Velasco (from Milwaukee) as Ensemble; Elena Harms (from Whitefish Bay) as Ensemble; Savanna Gutierrez (from Milwaukee) as Ensemble and Trinity Escalera (from Milwaukee) as Ensemble.


The Artistic Staff for ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA includes: Karen Estrada (Director/First Stage alumni); Alvaro Saar Rios (Playwright); Dinorah Márquez (Music Director); Stephen Hudson-Mairet (Scenic Designer); Jesse Klug, USAA, (Lighting Designer); Jazmin Aurora Medina (Costume Designer); Kevin O’Donnell (Sound Designer); Marissa Ashlyn, Member of Actor’s Equity Association, (Stage Manager) and Anna Evans (Assistant Stage Manager). 


Tickets start at $15 – Tickets may be purchased at or through the Marcus Center Box Office, in person at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee or by phone (414) 273-7206 or toll free at (888) 612-3500. The number for TDD (for deaf and hard of hearing patrons) is (414) 273-3080. 

Group Sales – Groups of 10 or more receive 15% off single ticket prices on most First Stage performances at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater. Call (414) 267-2964 or email for more information.


Special events for ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA


TECH TALKS –Sunday, October 27 following the 1:00 p.m. performance and Sunday, November 3, following the 3:30 performance

Following select performances, learn more about the behind-the-scenes magic at this extended talkback with the creative team.


Pay What You Choose Performance: Tuesday, October 22, 2019 at 7:00 p.m.

Pay What You Choose tickets are available on a first come, first served basis with a minimum suggested donation of $5 per person. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. on the day of the performance. Patrons are encouraged to arrive early.


ASL Interpreted Performance: Sunday, November 10, 2019 at 3:30 p.m.

This performance will be sign language interpreted for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing. Assistive listening devices are also available at the Todd Wehr Theater.


Sensory Friendly Performance: Saturday, November 9 at 7 p.m. 

A Sensory Friendly Performance with accommodations for families with children on the autism spectrum will take place on Saturday, November 9 at 7 p.m.Sensory accommodations include lower sound, house lights up, a quiet area staffed by an educator experienced with the care of students on the autism spectrum and other developmental differences, and more. Contact the First Stage Box Office at (414) 267-2961 to reserve tickets.


For additional programming around ON THE WINGS OF A MARIPOSA, please visit:–Events/2019-2020-Season/Wings-of-Mariposa/

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).


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