UTEP Department of Theatre and Dance Stages ‘Esperanza Rising’

Originally published March 27, 2015

By David Chavez

UTEP News Service


Make Plans

What: Esperanza Rising

When: 7:30 p.m. March 27 and 28; 2 p.m. March 29

Where: Wise Family Theatre, 2nd floor of the Fox Fine Arts Building

Tickets: Adults: $13; UTEP faculty/staff, seniors, military, groups (10+), non-UTEP students: $11; UTEP students: $9


Mariachi music, vibrant theatrical scenery and a heartfelt story are all on display this month with the play “Esperanza Rising.” The show premiered March 20 at the Wise Family Theatre located on the second floor of the Fox Fine Arts Building and runs through March 29.

The play, based on the award-winning young adult novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan and adapted for the stage by Lynn Alvarez, connects with audiences through its portrayal of Mexican culture along the U.S.-Mexico border. Mariachi music and other significant parts of the border region are present throughout the show.Esperanza Rising promo poster

“They’ll hear the music and see the papel picado (a Mexican folk art made out of paper cut into elaborate designs) flying in and connect to what they are all going through because they know this world, and on some level it makes us feel at home,” said director Rebecca Rivas.

The play follows the story of Esperanza, a young Mexican girl who lives a privileged life on her father’s ranch near the U.S.-Mexico border during the Great Depression. After tragedy arises, she is forced to cross the border into the United States and become a farm worker. The story travels from Aguascalientes, Mexico, to the hot fields of California.

“Esperanza Rising” deals with immigration and the struggle of farm workers. However, Rivas believes the characters are the main reason the story will be a personal one to every viewer.

“I think they will see themselves or their sister or cousin or friend in the characters onstage,” Rivas said. “Not just in Esperanza, but in all the characters they will meet.”

Rivas, an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at The University of Texas at El Paso, has previously directed “Electricidad” and “Arabian Nights” at UTEP. She proposed “Esperanza Rising” in order to attract a younger audience. The novel’s popularity and the story’s relationship to the El Paso community were the reasons she chose to bring it to life.

“This is a universal story about losing everything and struggling to find hope,” she said. “The fact that it revolves around a young girl who reminds us of ourselves or someone we know here in El Paso, just makes it a little more relatable.”

Roger M. Canales, a fourth-year fine arts and theater student at UTEP, plays Miguel. This is his first year as an actor.

“Miguel is really optimistic and tries to look past the struggle,” Canales said. “That’s something I liked and try to do. I also loved the book and thought it was the perfect opportunity to get some stage experience.”

Rivas also described her personal connection to the story.

“When I read the book and later when I read the play, I immediately connected with Esperanza as a female, as a person of Mexican heritage and as someone who grew up with advantages that I mistakenly took for granted,” she said.

Canales was enthusiastic for audiences to see the show and guaranteed that the play would be a life-changing experience for the audience.

“They should expect their view of the world and their view of their lives to change,” Canales said. “It definitely puts your morals into perspective.”

“Esperanza Rising” also stars Gabriela Torres as Esperanza, Rossy Sanchez as Modesta and Denisse Estefany Mendoza Valdez as Ramona.

For tickets and information, please call 915-747-5118.