"Esta es mi tierra."
California Territory, 1850; a young Ramona does not know who she is or where she came from - she only knows that the Señora Moreno raises her, grudgingly, as the only daughter of a wealthy family determined to live by rigid rules and customs. Ramona's story of loss, love, and self-discovery is set against the background of a crumbling California landscape - the development of Native American reservations, battles of family deeds and land grants, and the ceding of California to the United States - history carries us through Ramona’s desperate journey in search of family, home, and belonging.
Ramona the musical is a brand new take on a beloved California classic.
Published in 1884, Helen Hunt Jackson’s first full-length novel, Ramona, was an instant success. Tales of the old Spanish ranchos, the plight of the Native Americans, and the whirlwind romance of a young woman of mysterious descent brought new attention to the quickly-shifting political climate of the newly formed state of California. Jackson’s original intent had been to deliver a ‘palatable’ story of the mistreatment of California’s Native Americans in order to evoke sympathy from the public and influence a change in the government policies that handled Indian affairs; however, the novel initially sparked more interest in California tourism than heartfelt political activism. This was, in part, due to Jackson’s romanticization of Spanish Californio society and her sentimental portrayal of Mexican colonial life.
In this new musical adaptation, Ramona follows the story of the original novel with some specific adjustments and artistic additions. Ramona begins at the crossroads of the American West, a collision of the old and the new in California - a land in which Native Americans are being forced to register with the government and flee their homes, Californios are being driven back to Mexico, and the Americanos are moving westward in search of riches and adventure. Amid these chaotic changes, Ramona finds love and pieces of her true identity in a serendipitous encounter with a Native American shepherd, Alessandro. When faced with the decision of leaving behind the only man she has ever loved or abandoning her the riches of her dowry to live a life of poverty with her Native American beau, Ramona follows Alessandro without question - living the rest of her life among Alessandro’s people and sharing in their pain as they are moved from village to village. The music features nods to the unique styles of traditional Mexican mariachi, Cahuilla Indian bird songs and medicine songs, and American folk music; three languages are used during the production: English, Spanish, and Cahuilla, an Uto-Aztecan language once prevalent throughout the Inland Empire, northern San Diego County, and the inland desert areas of southern California.
Ramona is currently being developed in New York City and is endorsed by the Ramona Pageant Association.
MEET THE STORYTELLERS
The narrators of the Ramona. Each storyteller is represented by a different animal name and its known characteristics within Cahuilla oral tradition. These women are bonded in a way that transcends generations. They are neighbors who know each other's secrets; they are young girls braiding one another's hair; they are mothers and daughters; they are strangers bonded by adversity; they are kin tied by blood and land. The Storytellers are:
The eldest of the four. She has a known, grounded strength in her that isn't questioned and a quiet humor that endears her to others.
The second eldest. Súkat frequently remains neutral; she is a peacekeeper by nature. A voice of reason in times of uncertainty, she has a regal serenity about her that is magnetic.
The third eldest. 'Īsil is the trickster of the bunch, and always up for a prank or laugh, often at the expense of others. Playful, good-natured, and cunning, 'Īsil oozes charm and brings laughter wherever she goes.
The youngest of the four. Húnal is also strong, like Húnwet, but turbulent. She is fiery and easy to anger - she seeks justice in everything she does. She is fiercely independent, has a mind of her own, but judges a bit too harshly. Despite her turbulent nature, Húnal has good intentions and deeply desires safety and harmony underneath her tough exterior.
MEET THE MAIN CHARACTERS
A young woman of Scottish and Chumash descent; raised by an adopted guardian who does not love her, Ramona pines for a life outside of the rancho and a mother she has never known. Raised to be an aristocratic Spanish maiden in Mexican California, she is outwardly reserved but inwardly curious and passionate. Fiercely loyal, intellectual, and kind.
Young Native American man, son of the chief of a small band of Luiseño Indians; he comes in the summers to lead the shepherds in the sheep shearing on the rancho. Close friend and guardian of Felipe; he is generous and charming, but always carries an unseen burden. Alessandro is a quiet and curious leader but a loyal, humorous family man at heart.
The fierce matriarch of the Moreno family, a woman of aristocratic Spanish and Mexican descent; raised in the Catholic church, she is pious and strict. Rumor has it that she was once witty and charming, but she has only shown a rigid and unyielding exterior since her husband died. Mother to Felipe, guardian of Ramona.
Son of Señora Moreno, and heir to the Moreno estate; a bit of a natural playboy and used to being the center of attention, Felipe finds himself in a precarious position after a fall off of the barn roof, plagued by a mysterious illness; in his convalescence, he forms a close bond with Alessandro. A very generous man, always trying to live up to the standards of Spanish aristocracy; he is the only one with the bravery to stand up to his mother. He is naturally curious and warm, affectionate and loyal.
LUPE DE VALLE
A confident and outgoing señorita of the rancho, she is a maidservant to Ramona; a woman of mixed Mexican descent, she is the adopted daughter of the head kitchen cook, taken in when she was young. Fiery and outspoken, she is assertive and deeply emotional.
A gritty, southern pioneer woman who befriends Ramona and Alessandro, showing them kindness early in their marriage. She is weathered and threadbare, but joyful, a woman connected to the earth and open-hearted.