The virgin muse

Sandra Cisneros writes about what she knows, in the words she grew up with. This daughter of a Mexican father and Mexican-American mother brought the Chicano experience to mainstream literary circles with her first book, The House on Mango Street. Now, in celebration of December 12, the day of the Virgen de Guadalupe, Cara Mia Theater brings us Milagritos, a theatrical adaptation of Cisneros' second collection of short stories, Woman Hollering Creek. The collection proves that although Cisneros focuses on the Mexican-American experience, her lyrical prose and characters, which The New York Times Book Review deemed "as unforgettable as a fist kiss," have universal appeal.

Director Marisela Barrera, a Chicana from the tiny border town of San Juan, adapted the vignettes. Her move to Dallas gave her a "culture shock and a B.F.A. in acting from SMU," she says, explaining her connection to the characters in Cisneros' stories:

"She writes about my father, about my grandmother," Barrera says of Cisneros' work. "It is not just for the Latino community, although she tells our stories."

Barrera takes characters from Cisneros' stories and weaves them together to tell of a woman's memories of a childhood in South Texas and the development of her relationship with art and religion. The Virgen de Guadalupe's presence throughout the book prompted Barrera to present her as a living character, "with many facets, not just the loving mother figure of the Catholic church, but also the cabróna, the seductive...since the play is set in San Antonio, the Virgen is also a Tejana," she says.

From the short story "Never Marry a Mexican" she built Chayito, the character who represents the artist as a young woman, getting the first inkling that she might want to "live her life out as an artist, rather than in the traditional role a lot of Hispanic women grow up with," explains Barrera.

Cisneros writes in the language of South Texas, "an English sprinkled with Spanish, flavored like that," says Barrera, who remains faithful to the author's style. "I relate it to the language I grew up with, which is beautiful because it is open to both English and Spanish. This writing, these characters, just come alive. The text is so rich, I feel like I am just molding it into place."

Sandra Cisneros will be available to sign copies of books purchased at the December 12 benefit performance.

--Juliana Barbassa

Cara Mia Theater presents Milagritos/Little Miracles at the Ice House Gallery, 1000 West Page in Oak Cliff, on Thursdays-Sundays, December 3 through 13. Shows are at 8:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students. Sunday pay-what-you-can matinees are at 2 p.m. The special benefit performance on December 12 will be $20.

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