BWW Q&A: Mayu Molina Lehmann & Alfonso Molina of MONARCH: A Mexican-American Musical at Creative Cauldron

The production runs from October 5 through October 29th.

By: Oct. 10, 2023
BWW Q&A: Mayu Molina Lehmann & Alfonso Molina of MONARCH: A Mexican-American Musical at Creative Cauldron
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Monarch: A Mexican American Musical written by Alexandria, VA writer, Mayu Molina Lehmann and award-winning Mexican composer, Alfonso Molina, first premiered in 2022 at the Los Angeles Theater Center. Monarch is co-directed by Mayu Molina Lehmann and Creative Cauldron Assistant Artistic Director, Matt Conner.

“We are thrilled to open our 2023-24 Season with the East Coast premiere of this important new musical. Mayu and Alfonso’s work eloquently portrays the many challenges that immigrants face, and reminds us that the dream that brought them to our soil, is the same one that brought our ancestors here,” said Founding Artistic Director, Laura Connors Hull.

Monarch follows the journey of dreamers and undocumented immigrants who live and work in this country, but still must remain in the shadows. After 20 years of running a successful workshop in the US, beloved handyman Luis becomes the relentless focus of ICE Officer Castelo.

Fearing for his future, Luis seeks sanctuary in a local church where memories abound of the Monarch sanctuary in Mexico where he met his wife. Like the Monarch butterfly, Luis is determined to follow his fate-defining journey.​

“Monarch is a celebration of Hispanic immigrants in the United States and it highlights the contributions that they make, while still living in the shadows,” stated Lehmann.

“Musically in Monarch, I used Mexican rhythms as a point of departure to create the music like the huapango, the son, but I blended them into a more Broadway musical style,” stated Molina.

What inspired you to write and direct Monarch: A Mexican American Musical?

Alfonso studied music at Manhattan School of Music. When I visited him (Mayu) we went to Broadway and saw several musicals. We noticed that there was nothing for Hispanics at the time. Then we went to see "The Color Purple" and thought "Why don't we write a story that celebrates Mexican immigrants, in the way the The Color Purple celebrates Black resilience and joy? That was the start of this journey.

How does your background and personal experiences influenced the creation of this musical?

We are siblings and grew up in the Mexican state of Sonora, which borders Arizona. This story is personal to us, since we all know a Luis (Main character), or a family member that immigrated to the U.S. without any documents to try to improve their lives and has been struggling since then, either as a DACA recipient or by living in the shadows for decades. Later on we ended up on the East Coast of the U.S. and we saw the issue from the American side, which often portrays undocumented immigrants as criminals. We knew that was not the case, so we wanted to present a positive view of these immigrants, who contribute to this economy and who, like countless others, came to this country in search of a better life.

Can you talk about the importance of showcasing Hispanic stories and representation in theatre?

Absolutely! Hispanics are often portrayed as the bad characters in the movies and in the media. We wanted to offer an image of what we know Hispanics to be: hardworking, joyful, family-oriented people. We wanted to create a Hispanic hero.

How was the process of blending Mexican rhythms with a Broadway musical style?

I used Mexican rhythms such as the huapango, danzon, among other Latin American syncopated rhythms as a point of departure, but I never intended them to sound just like regional music, I wanted to blend these rhythms into a more contemporary Broadway musical style, so I combined these genres with classical music, as well as some blues, jazz among other influences.

How do you hope the audience will react to the story and music of Monarch?

During our L.A. premiere we touched a nerve in the audience. People were crying and were able to identify themselves or someone they know in the characters. In that way, it's a very personal story for Hispanics, because everyone knows someone who is caught up in the current immigration mess. I (Alfonso) would hope people react to the music of Monarch in the sense that they feel proud of their musical heritage, acknowledge that we have very diverse and rich rhythms in Mexico, that can lead into more sophisticated musical forms and ultimately be part of the Broadway musical world.

How does Monarch contribute to the ongoing conversation about immigrants and their experiences in the U.S.?

We hope this play helps humanize undocumented immigrants and show them not as a threat but rather as what they are: immigrants searching for a better life for their families, like countless immigrants who have come to this country searching for freedom and safety.

Why should audiences come and see Monarch: A Mexican-American Musical at Creative Cauldron?

Everyone who comes from an immigrant background should come to see Monarch. Even if the play is about Mexican immigrants, it recounts a much broader story of countless people who had to leave everything they loved and knew. It's an honor to their resilience and sacrifice, as portrayed by the restless journey of the Monarch butterfly.


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