Posts Tagged Sandra Cisneros

Hope is Esperanza

“In English my name means hope.”  Esperanza in The House on Mango Street

“How can art make a difference in the world?”  — Sandra Cisneros

 A selfie by Hope Cervantes

A selfie by Hope Cervantes

Hope Cervantes grew up in the rough-and-tumble world of show business, first led by her dancer-performer mother through the beauty pageant circuit as a baby and into early childhood, then as a child actress playing Tosha in Barney & Friends and various Barney videos, TV specials and live shows. In 2013, she drew from her life story to create and perform Imagination Island: Surviving Reality at the Minnesota Fringe Festival.

Born in Dallas,Texas, Cervantes has also lived in the show-biz meccas of California and New York. She attended performing arts middle and high schools, going on to earn a BFA in Theatre Arts from the University of Minnesota.

When asked what she may have become if she had veered off the performance path, Cervantes replied, “I loved science as a child so maybe a biochemist. Now I ask myself how I can still find a cure for humanity through theater. I believe an artist makes experiences to bring about change and give back to society. It can be self-centered–the desire for fame–but I need a deeper drive to remain in theater.”

Cervantes has been in previous Park Square Theatre productions, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, and appeared on numerous Twin Cities stages. This October, she plays the older Esperanza on Park Square’s Proscenium Stage in The House on Mango Street, based on Sandra Cisneros’ acclaimed book about a Latina girl growing up in Chicago.

Hope Cervantes with Atquetzali Quiroz in A House on Mango Street (photograph by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Hope Cervantes with Atquetzali Quiroz, as the young Esperanza,  in A House on Mango Street
(photograph by Petronella J. Ytsma)

Cervantes read Cisneros’ book when she was in the ninth grade and definitely related to the stories. She found them to be beautifully poetic, with a simplicity that a young person could access. An example of this poetic simplicity is captured when Esperanza’s friend Darius looks up at the sky: “You see that cloud, that fat one there? . . . . That one next to the one that look like popcorn. That one there. See that. That’s God.”

Cervantes recently reread the book with a different lens, having packed in more life experiences as an adult. She did it while in New York, sitting outside to be immersed in the urban setting and sounds of children’s laughter.

“I cried after reading the book again. It was very illuminating, seeing it with new eyes,” Cervantes said. “As adults, we have the vocabulary to name things such as abuse and immigration. But a young person may experience these same issues but not have the language to name them. She makes these characters and experiences accessible in a universal way. I also appreciate Cisneros’ approach to tackling these complex issues. She does it with grace and subtlety without being didactic. She was ahead of her time in writing about these taboo topics.”

Two evening performances of The House on Mango Street will be presented on October 21 and 22. Student matinees run from October 11 to November 4. If interested, the general public is also welcome to call the Ticket Office for dates and ticket availability to attend matinees.

“I am very excited to share The House on Mango Street with our student audiences,” Cervantes added. “These are their stories, and it’s very important for them to see their experiences onstage so that they don’t  feel so alone. Mango Street has stayed with me all these years; and I hope it changes their lives, the way it changed mine. Our director, Signe Harriday, is doing a beautiful job shaping these stories and lifting Cisneros’ words from the page and translating them into theater magic. Come join us on Mango Street!”

A scene from The House on Mango Street (photograph by Petronella J. Ytsma)

A scene from A House on Mango Street
(photograph by Petronella J. Ytsma)

 I make a story for my life, for each step my brown shoe takes.”  — Esperanza in The House on Mango Street

Atquetzali is Hope

Atquetzila Quiroz

Atquetzali in her backyard  (photo by T. T. Cheng)

This fall, The House on Mango Street appears on Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage on October 21 and 22 for public audiences (Education weekday matinees continue through Nov 4). Adapted by playwright Amy Ludwig from Sandra Cisneros’ acclaimed novel of the same title, The House on Mango Street is a story-told-in-vignettes about Esperanza Cordero, a young girl growing up in a poor Latino neighborhood in Chicago. The young Esperanza, whose name means “hope,” is played by Saint Paul Public Schools ninth-grader Atquetzali Quiroz.

image-only-mango-a-960x480-10-14            image-only-mango-b-960x480-10-14

Scenes from A House on Mango Street (Photos by Petronella J. Ystma)

Miss Quiroz had never acted until the summer before sixth grade when she took part in a camp program called Flipside TeenVenture. She and her friends were tasked with creating a performance on bullying, and Miss Quiroz played the bully. This fun experience opened her up to later take part in school plays, including auditioning and getting a lead role in the seventh grade.

In 2015, she appeared with her mother Mary Anne in a Lake Street Arts! Stories Matter video series shown at Pangea World Theater, highlighting their work as local artists and culture-bearers of Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli and Indigenous Roots, with a relation to Minneapolis’ Lake Street. And in 2016, she reconnected with Pangea, becoming part of its ensemble for Conference of the Birds (Quiroz was a sparrow), a play based on a 12th-century Sufi poem by Farid un-Din Attar and staged to counter the nation’s unrelenting negative political rhetoric.

This July, Miss Quiroz completed filming for her first movie role in Director Jesse Mast’s Kid West. The movie is about a cowgirl and her Native American friend, played by Quiroz, in a race against neighborhood bullies to find a mysterious treasure possessing mystical powers. It is still in post-production.

But it was Miss Quiroz’s work at Pangea’s Conference of the Birds that caught the attention of Signe V. Harriday, the director of The House on Mango Street. Harriday asked her to audition for the play, then ultimately cast her in the role of the young Esperanza.

Miss Quiroz did not read Cisneros’ book until after getting the part but described it as “my mom’s favorite book.” During her own reading of Esperanza’s story, she easily connected with the character, her coming-of-age journey and the Mango Street setting.

The past few years have been unexpectedly heady ones for a girl who had not initially ever considered being on stage. Now, she may consider a performing arts school when it comes time to consider high schools.

Rehearsals for The House on Mango Street began in mid-September, the day after Atquetzali’s birthday. Matinee performances for school groups started will run until November 4.


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