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BWW Previews: First Stage World Premiere LUCHADORA! Dedicated to Strong Women

"After growing up with three sisters, and three half sisters--while being raised by two sisters-all strong women," playwright Alvaro Saar Rios begins, "LUCHADORA! continues that personal tradition of strong women with a story of Vanessa, and her Nana Lupita, who entered the Mexican world of masked wrestlers."

Luchadora, which translated means masked female wrestler or warrior, continues the First Stage Wisconsin Cycle with the Saar Rios play written in honor of the Mexico's and Milwaukee's connection to the sport. The Mexican wrestling phenomena became a family friendly hybrid between entertainment and sport beginning in the 1930's, after the Mexican Revolution, yet originating in Texas. One super star named El Santo rose to five decades of wrestling fame and popularized the sport between the 1950' and '60's. Today, "Lucha Libre," or Mexican Wrestling, continues to fascinate fans because the sons and grandsons of El Santo participate with honor for their father, similar to other families across the decades.

Saar Rios mentions the championships were held in Milwaukee at one time, and the journey that Nana Lupita travels from Texas to Milwaukee connects the Latino and Germanic heritage in the city. A connection perfect for the First Stage Wisconsin Cycle. Saar Rios bases his story on how Vanessa discovers a mask in her grandmother's tucked away trunk. A young girl struggling with her family's permission to train and become a boxer, Vanessa discovers the mask represents this secret world her Nana Lupita participated in when she was a young woman.

Lucha Libre tradition requires every wrestler wear a mask, no one to ever recognize the wrestler or know their true identity. The mysterious element engages audiences in Mexican wrestling, which adds a theatrical quality to the performances/sport, complete with stage costumes and invented names for each individual wrestler. LUCHADORA! relates Nana Lupita's journey from Texas to Mexico as a masked wrestler, secretly a woman instead of a man to carry on her father's tradition. While also loosely based on the Japanese folklore of Mulan, Saar Rios relates how everyday people, daughters instead of sons, can become extraordinary superheroes by exploring non-expected roles within their cultural framework.

The First Stage production also includes Michelle Lopez-Rios, the playwright's theatrically acclaimed wife, in the role of the Maskmaker. Maskmakers in this Mexican tradition work as mentors to the would-be-wrestlers, training them and creating their individual identity with a mask, a costume device rooted in Aztec history.

Since Saar Rios has continually been surrounded by numerous strong women, including his partner and wife Michelle, he believes he subconsciously writes how women can define their own destinies, a task that Vanessa and Nana Lupita discover in each other during the play. When Nana Lupita's secret can finally be revealed, the unveiling opens the doors for those around her, her own family, and importantly, Vanessa. Often secret revelations lead to personal growth and harmony that strengthen connections to close relationships.

Playwright Saar Rios and Michelle teach playwriting and theater at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and encourage young women and men in the arts throughout the year. The pair also co-founded The Royal Mexican Players, a company producing original plays, musicals and operas where the troupe performs throughout the city to open doors on Mexican Culture and the themes of strong women. While Saar Riors often includes this in the company's repertoire, his new play might be the first time First Stage explored the wrestling world through a woman's experience, whether in Mexico or America.

"I'm sure that today there are women disguised as men," Saar Rios believes of the popular entertainment. "Women who wrestle in Lucha Libre, and remain hidden from the public eye, for themselves or for the honor of the family..and then this play asks culture to rethink about what women can and can't do."

When the World Premiere LUCHADORA arrives on stage April 10, audiences can enter the secret world of Mexican Wrestling, inspired to fulfill their own dreams of being whoever they are, without any secrets to define them. A challenge First Stage continually offers to their audiences when commissioning new works for Milwaukee, which eventually creates stronger young men and women. Youth who will succeed in their futures, whether as wrestlers or whatever their destinies call them to, to become their own real life superheroes.

First Stage presents a World Premiere LUCHADORA! in the Todd Wehr Theater at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts April 10 through April 26. For information, subscriptions to the 2015-2016 season, please call 414.273.7206 or www.firststage.org.


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From This Author Peggy Sue Dunigan