TABLE OF CONTENTS KEY
CHAPTER ONE: ABOUT THE PLAY Activity
ESPERANZA, AN INTRODUCTION 3 or discussion questions to
incorporate in the classroom
THE SETTING 4
LITERARY THEMES 5 To go further…
more challenging information
for older students
CHAPTER TWO: CULTURE AND LANGUAGE
LEARNING SPANISH! 6 Behind the scenes
TRADITIONAL VALUES 7 anecdotes from members of
CHAPTER THREE: IMMIGRATION
…AND EFFECT 12
CHAPTER FOUR: THE PRODUCTION
THEATER FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES 13
EMERSON’S ESPERANZA 14
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born on December 25th, 1951 in
Bakersfield, California, Pam Muñoz Ryan earned
her bachelor’s and master’s degree in education BOOK SIGNING!
from San Diego State University. A former
bilingual teacher, Muñoz Ryan was encouraged by Pam Muñoz Ryan will be at
one of her professors to write. Taking the advice, the Emerson College
Muñoz Ryan found success and published her first Bookstore located at 114
picture book in 1994. Boylston Street,
The story of Esperanza Rising came from Saturday, November 14th
Muñoz Ryan’s grandmother who was an immigrant from 4:00 – 5:30pm!
from Mexico. Like Esperanza, her grandmother
had to endure the hardships of her father’s death
and prejudice against her Mexican heritage.
After graduating college, Lynne Alvarez traveled
to Mexico where she served as a newspaper reporter in
Veracruz. Alvarez also taught journalism and English at
the local university. In 1978, the Puerto Rican Traveling
Theatre invited her to join their playwriting workshop.
With the company she wrote three plays, all exploring
her Latina background. Usually a writer of poetry,
Alvarez’s writing style is dense poetic style with rich,
vivid imagery, and highly stylized language.
Before her recent death in 2009, Alvarez lived in
Dallas, TX and was the playwright in residence at the
3 Children’s Theater of Madison
PREVIOUS PERFORMANCES Madison, WI (2008)
4 Chicago Children’s Theatre
1 Children’s Theatre Company Chicago, IL (2008)
Minneapolis, MN (2006) 5 Civic Youth Theatre
2 Brigham Young University Theatre Lafayette, IN (2008)
Provo, UT (2008) 6 The Children’s Bilingual Theater
Marietta, GA (2009)
7 Emerson Stage
THE JOURNEY FROM BOOK TO STAGE Boston, MA (2009)
To get your students in a “theatre” mindset, encourage them to adapt their mind’s image
of a story to the stage.
Pick either a book the class is reading together, or let your students use one they are
reading independently. Generate a class discussion or activity using the following:
•What is the most important part (the Climax) of the story?
•Who are your favorite characters? How do you envision them in real life? Think of their walk,
physical and personality characteristics, presence, demeanor, clothing etc.
•Attempt to include Dramatic Structure: Who is the antagonist, the villain, and who is the
protagonist, the main character? Describe their traits using the above.
•Have the students walk across the room as their chosen character. Discuss what the student
conveys in their movement.
•Create a drawing of their chosen character, or an event in the story.
3 Chapter 1: About the Play
Esperanza Rising is the story of a
wealthy Mexican girl whose privileged Esperanza Wealthy rancher’s daughter
existence is shattered when her father Hortensia Maid of Don Sixto’s family
dies and her family loses everything 4 Mariachis Musicians
they own in a fire. Esperanza is forced Don Sixto Esperanza’s father, a landowner
to leave her mother behind and flee to Ramona Esperanza’s mother, Sixto’s wife
California with the family maid and Marielena Esperanza’s best friend
her son. Forced to work in a migrant Miguel Hortensia’s son, ranch hand
labor camp, Esperanza must learn to Luis Sixto’s brother, town mayor, bank owner
rise above her difficult circumstances Isabel Miguel’s cousin, 8 years old
and discover what she's truly made of. Modesta Isabel’s mother, Hortensia’s sister-in-law
Set in the turbulent 1930's, and based Alfonso Modesta’s husband, Hortensia’s brother
on the popular book by Pam Muñoz Marta Modesta’s niece
Ryan, Esperanza Rising is a poetic tale
of a young girl's triumph over
Luis: (from Louis) "Warrior in Battle"
Miguel: "He who is like God"
Alfonso: "Eager, noble"
Modesta: "Shy, modest"
Isabel: "Consecrated to God"
Marta: (from Martha) "Lady"
Chapter 1: About the Play 4
El Rancho Linda Flor, Esperanza’s home
growing up is located in
the center of the country.
Aguascalientes climate is
averaging 66F. It’s also
usually dry, with the
exception of summer
rains. All types of terrain
are in the region,
valleys, plains, and rivers.
ACROSS THE BORDER: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
The migrant camp, where Hortensia’s family lives is located
north of Los Angeles. Arvin has a brutal climate; hot during the
summer, with temperatures in the
80's, and cold during the winter with
temperatures in the 40's! Temperature variations
between night and day also create uncomfortable
conditions. Landlocked, with no rivers running
through, Arvin is a flat plain with little rainfall; average
precipitation is just 12 inches.
5 Chapter 1: About the Play
• Protagonist: Esperanza is the protagonist of the
Red roses are a major symbol story. She must rise above her father’s death, the
in Esperanza Rising, representing burning of their home, the absence of her mother, and
growth, uprooting and rebirth. In endure poverty in order to find freedom.
history, the red rose is most
• Antagonist: Tio Luis is the antagonist of the story.
commonly recognized as the symbol
for love. This symbol stems from Esperanza and her mother must flee to the United
Greek and Roman mythology, in States to escape his hold. He makes it difficult for
which the red rose was closely tied Ramona to meet Esperanza in California.
to the goddess of love. • Conflict: Esperanza must learn to adapt to a new life
as a poor migrant in California, after her father is
murdered and house is burned down. She needs to
MIGRATION raise money by working at the camps, without being
caught, in order to bring her mother from Mexico.
Emerson cast member • Climax: Occurs when Miguel brings Ramona to
Fernanda Vazquez is a Mexican California at the end of the play.
native. Below she elaborates on • Denouement: The resolution occurs in the final
her heritage and culture: scene; when Esperanza and Ramona replant the roses
“My dad’s job kept us Miguel had brought from their home in Mexico.
moving for five years, and in that
time we lived in three different
countries. To be honest, it was WHAT WOULD YOU BRING?
really hard at first. Letting go of
your roots is never easy; you feel Esperanza flees to California to escape her uncle:
like your identity is being shaken. •If you had to pack up and leave at a moment’s notice,
Ultimately you learn to adapt, but what would you bring? Discuss the meaning of this
you change a lot. You learn to object and what it expresses about you.
integrate bits of the new culture
with the old one, and you end up Fernanda has lived in several different cultures:
being a weird mix, but quite •If you were traveling to a foreign land, what object
unique.” would you bring to represent, and more importantly
explain, the culture of the United States?
Chapter 2: Culture and Language 6
In groups of four to six, invite each student to randomly choose (from a hat, perhaps?)
a vocabulary word, or phrase, from the list. Have each group create a story using the words
selected. Emphasize dramatic structure, and how each story should include a beginning,
middle, and end.
•Attempt a scene in “spanglish.” Encourage your students to use as much Spanish as possible.
•Have the group write a formal script in class and perform it.
•Give them a few minutes to create an outline and then improvise their performance.
•Every member of the group must say a line with one of words chosen.
It can be the word they picked, or any the group picked- you choose!
VOCABULARY Arriba y adelante
Up and ahead
muñequita doll cobarde coward Viva México
mi amor my love ojalá I hope Y tú, qué palillo Long live Mexico
mi reina my queen buitre vulture And you’re a toothpick
tío uncle escalera stair Chiquitita bonita Qué latosa es Usted
muchacho boy cállate be quiet You’re so noisy
Pretty little one
pistolero gunman paquetes packages Todos a divertirse
Feliz Cumpleaños Have a good time
bestia beast correo mail
Híjole. Qué montón de gente
Geez. A bunch of people
A STUDENT, TEACHER Juega el pollo pelón
Play the bald chicken
Fernanda Vazquez was a big help by teaching her native language to fellow cast
“I generally don’t like correcting people when they are trying really hard to get something right.
I didn’t feel like a teacher, I felt more like I was someone they could consult when in doubt. My peers
and I would just go over the words that they have to say, and we would say them over and over again.
Some of them need to write it phonetically, others learn better by memory.”
7 Chapter 2: Culture and Language
In the 1930s and
today a lot of importance
in Mexican culture is
placed on family. Both
immediate and extended
members define family
Women usually stray little
Men have the role of protecting their from the family unit. They are
family and keeping them financially stable. responsible for raising the children,
They are the ones to have friends outside and running the household.
the family and deal with the struggles of the
Abigail Vega, the actress playing Ramona in Emerson’s
production, shared her family photographs, taken in 1917.
The man below is Abigail’s great-grandfather, Siprian
Villareal Benavidas. Born in 1885 on a ranch, he worked there,
much like the campesinos in the play. His last name he would
have passed down in Mexico is actually Villareal, but in the
United States his records indicated that his last name was
Benavidas, Abigail’s grandmother's maiden name.
The woman above is Abigail’s great-grandmother,
Josefina Salinas Rodriguez, and the baby in the photo is her
grandmother, Esperanza Benavidas.
Abigail’s grandmother was born in 1915, which
would have made her 14 in 1929, just 2 years older than our
Esperanza. She was born in the U.S. and grew up along the
border of Texas and Mexico. In this area, almost no one
spoke English, and there was very little connection to
American culture at all. It wasn't until the 1930s that the
U.S. government began paying attention to what was
happening in that Texas area and started implementing laws
regarding English in the schools. For example, Abigail’s
grandmother would have graduated high school (if she did
at all) in 1933, and yet she never spoke a word of English!
Chapter 2: Culture and Language 8
The colors in Mexico’s flag represent:
• Green: the Independence
• White: purity of the
• Red: tribute to the
Spaniards who fought for
According to legend,
the gods advised the Aztecs
to establish their city at the
place where they saw an eagle, perched on a prickly
pear tree, devouring a serpent. They saw this
To get the students started, mythical eagle on a marshy lake that is now the
have them focus on the idea of Zócaloor main plaza in Mexico City.
creating a country:
What is important?
• principles THE ISLAND
• level of community Separate the class into groups of four to five,
• terrain to create their “island.”
• industry/ economy • Have each group create a flag on an 8.5x11in, or
• religion larger, piece of paper, representing life on their
• opinion of the other islands “island.”
• and ask your students to list more! • On a separate sheet of paper, write what each part
(color, symbol, picture) represents in the flag.
9 Chapter 2: Culture and Language
In the 1930s, all Mariachis wore an ORIGIN OF THE NAME
adapted traje de charro, directly translated to
a cowboy costume. The outfit traditionally Coming from Mexico, the
included a waist-length jacket and tight word Mariachi is named after the
wool pants. Both were usually decoratively wood used to build the village
embroidered and fashioned with silver performer’s stage.
buttons or cut leather designs. The pants
had a slight slit at the ankle, to fit over a LISTEN!
short riding boot.
Here are some websites
THE TRADITION that play great Mariachi music for
you and your class to listen to:
Mariachi music commonly deals www.mariachimusic.com
with the themes of betrayal, lost love and
vengeance; however, the music itself is
characterized by a rhythmical flow of Roxanne, Emerson’s Director,
sounds involving Spanish language and found Hector while he was playing
heritage. with a local mariachi. You can read
and hear more about Hector at:
THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE
The roots of Mariachi music are planted in nostalgia from rural life, a time of honor,
tradition, modernization, and peace. Music has always been a form of expression:
•Using any creative form (drawing, a poem, lyrics, movement, etc.) have your students
creatively express their “roots.”
•After, in small groups of three to four, have them share their creations. Ask the students to
explain the connection between the art form and their roots.
•To wrap up, try an open discussion guided by the students. Encourage them to point out
details they noticed or liked about a group member’s, and/or their own, creation.
Chapter 2: Culture and Language 10
The four Mariachis in Esperanza Rising are all well-versed
musicians with a passion for music. Here is a little bit more
about the musicians, and the instruments they play: DISCUSSION
Accordion- Musical Theatre BFA Junior Nathan
Chang from Nashville NC has been playing the Try this as a
clarinet for eight years and started learning the piano class, or a group,
just a year ago. Nathan will have been playing the accordion activity:
for just six weeks at the show’s opening; however, he mastered
the instrument in about two weeks to prepare for rehearsals. • What kind of
music do you listen
Violin- Musical Theatre BFA Junior Nick Lee from to? Pick one artist
Kansas had no experience with the Spanish language or song that
prior to Esperanza Rising. He approached learning the everyone in the
lyrics by concentrating on singing sounds and was group likes (or can
coached by Fernanda Vazquez. But Nick’s violin skills needed at least settle on.)
no instruction; he has been playing for nine years. • Why is that song
likeable? Is it the
Vihuela- An instrument similar to a guitar, the vihuela has lyrics, melody,
five strings and is played with the musician’s fingernails. Dru rhythm, etc?
Serkes is a Musical Theatre BFA Junior from Connecticut.
Like Nathan, learned the instrument for the show. Dru’s • Why do you
musical training includes a year of bass guitar, five years of think people listen
drums, and another five years on the guitar. His guitar to music?
experience helped him adapt to the vihuela he plays in • What do you
Esperanza Rising. think would
happen if music
Guitar- The show’s Musical Director, Héctor Martínez didn’t exist in the
Morales, has been playing the guitar since he was 13 years old. world?
Currently, Morales teaches music full time in Cambridge and
also freelances as a composer and performer. Formally trained
in classical music composition, guitar, and piano performance,
this is only his second show as the Musical Director.
Chapter 3: Immigration
THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION
The long, bloody, and chaotic war
began with Porfirio Díaz, the ruler of
Mexico since 1876. In 1908, he declared
that Mexico was ready for democracy, and
accordingly, he would not seek another
presidential term. Díaz’s withdrawal
resulted in several detrimental events:
THE BEGINNING •Francisco Madero led the uprising that
1910 - 1929 started the war.
Includes the years that Esperanza lived with • Mexico’s population suffered a decline
her family in Aguascalientes, Mexico. During that of 360,000 people.
time, a large number of Mexicans left their country • A major drop occurred in the country’s
to seek opportunities in the United States. agricultural output.
• U.S. Population: 106,521,537 • Black markets flourished in cities,
• 2,132,000 unemployed, unemployment 5.2% funding and perpetuating corrupt
• Average annual earnings $1,236
• Almost all banking and credit systems
within Mexico disappeared.
Feel free to photocopy the card (right,) or simply write a similar format on the board,
for each student in your class to fill out individually.
• Stress the significance held in this little piece of paper by exploring the thoughts of
immigrants. Discuss the projected image of the United States as the ideal country and life.
Have students articulate the good and bad of life in the U.S.
United States of America
• This exercise is a Immigrant Validation Form
perfect opportunity for Name: Gender:
drama in the classroom. DOB: Place of Birth:
Your students are Postal Address: Ethnicity:
immigrants from Mexico Marital Status:
in the 1930s. The teacher …………………………………………………...………...………………………………………...
can play the Immigration Height: Weight:
Officer creating and
Eye color: Hair color:
playing out different …………………………………………………...…………………………………………………...
scenarios that immigrants Employment Details: Medical History:
may have encountered at
Official use only:
Chapter 3: Immigration 12
THE MEXICAN BORDER
Luis Alberto Urrea, author of Across
the Wire: life and hard times on the
Mexican border, recounts his vivid memory:
“We met the many ambassadors of poverty:
lice, scabies, tapeworm, pinworm, ring worm, fleas,
and crab lice. We met diphtheria, meningitis,
typhoid, polio, turista, tuberculosis, hepatitis, VD, WORKING LIFE
impetigo, measles, chronic hernia, malaria, and When Esperanza, Hortensia, and
whooping cough. We met madness and demon Miguel fled to California for work and a
possession.” better life, they met the economic hardships
U.S. RESPONSE of the Great Depression. Considering the fact
1930 – 1934 that immigrants were known as “cheap
During the time that Esperanza, Miguel, labor,” they faced the fear of not being paid
and Hortensia were living and working at the enough to support their families or of being
camps in California, the U.S. deported more replaced by another person who would work
than four hundred thousand Mexicans. for less.
• U.S. Population: 123,188,000 Consistently classified as “unskilled”
• Unemployment rises to 25% workers, Mexicans were only considered for
• Average annual earnings: $1,368 labor-intensive jobs, and were thought of by
employers as expendable. Strikes were
prevalent in the struggle for better working
IMMIGRATION TODAY conditions and often turned violent.
Michelle Macedo, another Emerson cast member, has a personal experience with
immigration; her father is a U.S. immigrant from India.
“The youngest in his family, my father is from Goa, India, previously a Portuguese colony before
India gained its independence after WWII. Affected by the colonization, the state of Goa still recognizes
three languages- Hindi, a native dialect, and Portuguese. Religion in the state was also influenced; my
father is a Catholic, although most people assume he is Hindu, solely because he is from India. Moving to
the United States for graduate school, my father was the first in his family to move out of India and the
first not to have an arranged marriage.
My first language was Hindi, but I forgot it pretty quickly because I did not keep up practice. I
have been going to India almost every Christmas, and it is still strange. Strangers think that I am a
westerner who is unaware of the Indian culture, even though all of my family is Indian.
Esperanza Rising makes me feel very appreciative of diversity in America and how many people
have different backgrounds. I currently live in California, and travel to Mexico often to embrace and
explore the culture. My traveling and heritage has made me develop an immense respect for immigrants.”
Chapter 4: The Production 13
NOTES FROM THE DIRECTOR
Like you, I am a teacher. I know the long hours
you put into your work and the great energy it takes to
touch lives like you do. In these times, I also realize that
it is harder than ever to foster opportunities for your
students…busses, permission forms, scheduling, etc.
Therefore, I would like to thank you deeply for bringing
your students to see our production of Esperanza Rising!
Many of you, I am sure, have read this book several
times with multiple groups of young people. I am sure
that more than a few of you consider it one of your
favorites. I understand! Pam Muñoz Ryan has written a
piece rich with poetry, emotion and symbolism. I like to
think that Esperanza Rising helps young people to think
about change, growth, and what gives every one of us
hope in our lives. You will find that Lynn Alvarez’s
dramatic adaptation is quite different from the book.
However, my awareness and appreciation of the book
influenced my vision of the play and was part of the
Representing the United
evolution of the production process. We hope that you
States in the International Association
will enjoy the production alongside of your students, and
of Theater for Children and Young People,
that you and your students will leave the theatre thinking
Theatre for Young Audiences/USA
about migration, oppression and hope! We further hope
(TYA/USA) is a national service
that the production will serve as a catalyst for dialogue in
organization promoting theater for
your classrooms. We will be eager to hear from you and
children and young adults by:
your students, so let us know what you and your students
• Improving the reputation, and
visibility, of theater among young
• Connecting professional managing
and artistic directors, artists, arts
agencies, and theaters to encourage
quality theater for young people.
14 Chapter 4: The Production
Peter Andersen Ensemble
Chris Brindley Agent/Ensemble
Olivia Brownlee Okie Mother
Noel Carey Okie Father
Nathan Chang Mariachi
Vinny Cueva Luis
Alyssa Gomez Isabel/Ensemble
Victoria Gomez Hortensia
Adrian Hernandez Don Sixto
Sara Holt Modesta/Ensemble
Chelsey Lebel Esperanza
Nick Lee Mariachi
Michelle Macedo Servant Girl/Ensemble
Vanessa Moyen Ensemble
Jessica Naimy Marielena/Ensemble
Chris Nicolosi Okie Boy
Nora Reilly Worker/Ensemble Esperanza Rising stage manager, Helen
Miguel Septién Miguel Bennett with a mariachi at a company
Dru Serkes Mariachi outing early this October!
Kameron Tarlow Alfonso/Ensemble
Hannah Tehrani Worker/Ensemble
Fernanda Vazquez Worker/Ensemble
Abigail Vega Ramona
Jill Waters Marta/Ensemble PRODUCTION STAFF
ARTISTIC STAFF Stage Manager Helen Bennett
Assistant Stage Manager Steven Kaplan
Director Roxanne Schroeder-Arce 2nd Asst. Stage Manager Lindsay Eberly
Music Director Héctor Martínez Morales 2nd Asst. Stage Manager Kevin Dwyer
Scenic Designer Crystal Tiala Production Supervisor Rachel Enright
Costume Designer Rafael Jean Production Carpenter Catrin Evans
Lighting Designer Tracy Werheimer Master Electrician Brian Choinski
Sound Designer Brendon Doyle Production Sound Engineer Erik Skovgaard
Props Master Michele Teevan Scenic Artist Helen McCarthy
Assistant Director Chris Brindley Study Guide Coordinator Courtney Wrenn
Dramaturgs Cheyenne Postell
Chapter 2 con.
Table of Contents Origin of the Name information
Pam Munoz Ryan picture and information: Gonzalez, Silvia. Mexico, The Meeting of Two
Scholastic Inc. Pam Munoz Ryan. July 2009 Cultures. New York: Higgins and Associates, 1991.
<http://www.pammunozryan.com/>. Other mariachi information
—. Pam Munz Ryan. August 2009 Shorris, Earl. The Life and Times of Mexico. New
<http://teacher.scholastic.com/authorsandbooks/events/ York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.
ryan/>. Chapter 3
Lynne Alvarez information: The Mexican Revolution information
Peterson, Jane T. and Suzanne Bennett. Women Joseph, Gilbert M. and Timothy J. Henderson. The
playwrights of diversity: a bio-bibliographical sourcebook. Mexico Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Durham:
Santa Barbara: Greenwood Press, 1997. Peterson and Duke University Press, 2003.
Bennett 1910-1929, 1930-1934 information:
Whitley, Peggy. American Cultural History. August
Chapter 1 2009<http://kclibrary.lonestar.edu/decade20.html>.
The Vineyard information Chapter 4
Advameg Inc. Aguascalientes. September 2009 TYA information:
<http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/mexico/Aguascali ASSITEJ International. Theatre for Young Audiences.
entes-M-xico/Aguascalientes.html>. September 2009 <http://www.assitej-usa.org/>.
Southern California information
Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Arvin, California. September
2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arvin,_California>. EMERSON STAGE
Red roses information:
Types of Flowers. Meaning and Symbolism of Red Rose
Flower. September 2009
meaning_of_rose_red_flower.html>. Producing Director Benny Sato Ambush
Family, Women, Men information General Manager Julie Hennrikus
Gordon, Milton M., ed. Mexican Americans. Englewood Director of Production Bonnie Baggesen
Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1970.
The Flag, Emblem information
Production Manager Deb Acquavella
Inside Mexico. Inside Mexico. September 2009 Technical Director Keith Cornelius
<http://www.inside-mexico.com/flag.htm>. Technical Supervisor Caroline Mulcahy
• The Master of Arts degree in
THEATRE EDUCATION PROGRAM Theatre Education is for students who wish
to pursue careers and opportunities that lie at
• The Bachelor of Arts degree in the intersection of theatre and education. As
Theatre Education involves the use of theatre such, this program provides professional
in a variety of educative settings, in addition training in both theatre and education, and in
to formal K-12 teaching. Some students will the uses of theatre and drama as vehicles of
choose to pursue certification for K-12 education in a multitude of settings.
Teachers of Drama; all use the program to The graduate program is designed
develop interests and expertise in a wide with a central core of courses; within the
range of theatre areas. Students in Theatre central core, there are three course streams,
Education often do two full years of acting Theatre Teacher, Education Theatre, and
work at Emerson, and with the permission of Community, Theatre Education. With
the Acting faculty, can do up to two additional work in areas of special interest to
additional semesters of work. Students students, Emerson’s program supports a
seeking licensure must also complete the broad range for individuals to meet their
Educator Licensure requirements. career goals.