Newswise — A pink wrestling mask starts a young girl on a journey to rediscover her family history.

That’s the premise of “Luchadora,” a new play written by a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) faculty member, who has roots in Wisconsin and Texas.

“Luchadora” will premiere as a First Stage Theater production, 7 p.m., April 10, at Milwaukee’s Todd Wehr Theater, in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Performances run through April 26.

Alvaro Saar Rios, the play’s author, teaches playwriting at UWM. With Michelle Lopez-Rios, he is a co-founder of the Royal Mexican Players, which performs in Milwaukee and Texas.

“We started the Royal Mexican Players to tell Latino stories, those that were not being told onstage and in film,” says Lopez-Rios, who leads the acting program at UWM. In “Luchadora,” she plays the Mask Maker.

The pink mask is a wrestling mask, an integral part of the world of Mexican wrestling, known as lucha libre. Vanessa, the inquisitive young girl who discovers the mask in her Nana Lupita’s briefcase, begins a journey into her family’s heritage. The story starts in the 1960s in a small Texas town and leads to present-day Milwaukee, unmasking the significance of family traditions and the cultural identity shared by generations.

The Latino community in Milwaukee and San Antonio contributed to the development of the play through a staged reading at Milwaukee’s United Community Center and a workshop production last winter in San Antonio.

“It’s an opportunity to research what works and what doesn’t,” say Rios. “It also serves to let the community feel they are part of the development process, which they are, and that gets them more invested in the work. That’s what I love about theater.”

Students and teachers at Bruce Guadalupe Middle School in Milwaukee created nearly 500 original pieces of papel picado, decorative Mexican folk-art made from tissue paper. Scenic designer Sarah Hunt-Frank and director Jeff Frank incorporated their artwork in the themes of family, identity, masks and honor. Their artwork will also be featured in the theater’s lobby during performances.

Tickets for “Luchadora,” which start at $14.50, are available at or through the Marcus Center Box Office, 929 N. Water Street, Milwaukee. To purchase by phone, call 414-273-7206 or toll free at 888-612-3500. TDD for deaf and hard of hearing is 414-273-3080.