When the director of Steppenwolf for Young Adults suggested that she adapt Sandra Cisneros’s House on Mango Street for the stage, Tanya Saracho was too intimidated by the stature of the book in her community to start writing. “That’s our American Latino classic. It was one of the first books I read when I came to the United States,” says Saracho, whose family left Mexico for Texas when she was 12.
After college she moved to Chicago and, in 2000, cofounded the Latina/Hispana-centered ensemble Teatro Luna with Coya Paz. Since then, Saracho has won critical acclaim for her fluid, street-level plays such as Kita y Fernanda and Our Lady of the Underpass.
Mulling over Mango Street, Saracho found that music was her entry point. And the play, which opens in October, is infused with salsa, hip-hop, and soft serenades. The dialogue is equally melodic. Using the creative syntax of bilingual children, Saracho translates the book’s observations of a 12-year-old Mexican American girl whose family moves to yet another rundown Chicago neighborhood.
Though it’s bittersweet to complete the script she’s been working on for a year, Saracho’s schedule swirls with projects. She is developing and instructing a series of workshops for playwrights and directors at Teatro Luna, and she’s writing an adaptation of The Cherry Orchard for Teatro Vista. Called El Nogalar, the play is about culture clashes between Mexican natives and returning ex-pats. As Saracho sees it, this momentum is not about her own career, but her community in Chicago. “I think the next Latino theatre movement is coming from here.”
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