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Park Square Opens Boss Stage with The House on Mango Street

<em>The House on Mango Street.</em>

The House on Mango Street.

Last week, the finishing touches were being put on two premieres at Park Square Theatre: The House on Mango Street and the space it will occupy, the new Andy Boss Thrust Stage.

So while the tech crew focused lights and built the stage, the construction crew worked to wrap up the final touches in the theater, including the glass boards to the sides of the seating areas.

See also: "House on Mango Street" brings poetry of youth to stage

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Still, it's a long way from earlier this year, when artistic director Richard Cook offered a tour of an empty meeting space in the basement of the Hamm Building and described what might be coming by the end of 2014.

Cook has learned a few things since Park Square last opened a space, 28 years ago. "I was directing The Seagull and getting the theater ready. They were stapling the carpet down during our final dress rehearsal," he recalls.

This time out, he's stayed away from the director's chair for the space's debut. Once up and running, the Boss will be a somewhat flexible space for various theaters, including several partner companies that will start using the space next year.

It also allows Park Square to reach out to more students, which has long been a vital part of its programming. "The first audiences [for the Boss stage] will be students. I think that is cool," Cook says.

The new space's opening was delayed, moving The House on Mango Street into the debut slot. The adaptation of Sandra Cisneros's book first played in town in 2012 as a Pangea World Theater/Teatro del Pueblo co-production. Pangea's Dipankar Mukherjee directs Park Square's production.

The play moves through the memories of Esperanza as she grows up in a Chicago barrio in the 1970s. Beyond the actors playing the younger (Alejandra C. Tobar) and older (Adlyn Carrreras) version of this character, six other performers are called on to play the dozens of characters that inhabit Esperanza's world.

"We have to work hard to bring it all to life," says Pedro R. Bayon. That includes making each of those different characters crystal clear. A lot of that work is done by the actors in rehearsal, as they have added backgrounds to make even the smallest character tick.

Mukherjee has worked with the actors to find the spaces for each character, says Cameron Cylkowski.

The costumes from designer Trevor D. Bowen have helped to bring some of the characters to life, be it via a simple piece of clothing or a hot pair of shoes.

Bowen was thrilled to take on the challenge offered by the show, which required distinct looks for all the characters, some of which may only be seen for a short time.

The three-quarters thrust and the small space also meant Bowen could concentrate on additional details throughout the costumes.

"A little piece of clothing gives you a different perspective on the character," Bayon says.

Actor Stephanie Ruas agrees. "The costume is the first piece of putting the world together," she says.

The costumes, sets, and characters will all work together to bring a vibrant world to the stage that connects closely with many of the actors. "This is like a piece of my life," says Marcos Lopez.

IF YOU GO:

The House on Mango Street Friday through November 9 Park Square Theatre 20 W. Seventh Pl., St. Paul $38-$58 For tickets and more information, call 651.291.7005 or visit online.