An epic adventure story of Aztec culture and the conquest of Mexico comes to life in the latest world premiere by Childsplay, Arizona’s award-winning theater company for young audiences.

In “The Sun Serpent,” opening this weekend, young Anáhuac wonders if newly arrived Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortés is a god of Aztec legend — or something far less benevolent. As the story unfolds, the boy grapples with his own identity as the world he knows changes irrevocably.

“The Sun Serpent” is notable not only for being a highlight reel-worthy event of Arizona’s inaugural CALA Festival, but for the local team behind it.

Playwright José Cruz González’s script incorporates English, Spanish and Nahuatl, the ancient language of the Aztecs. It’s directed by Rachel Bowditch, professor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University. Another ASU professor, Connie Furr-Soloman, designed the costumes.

The play features two noteworthy visual elements — a film that will be projected throughout the theater, creating an all-encompassing experience for audiences, crafted by Adam Larsen (a video projection designer for nearly 100 productions on and off Broadway), and more than 30 original masks by Mesa mask maker Zarco Guerrero.

Only three actors — Ricky Araiza, Andrés Alcalá and Andrea Morales — perform more than 20 roles in the play, making Guerrero’s masks a crucial part of the storytelling.


If you go

When: A preview performance is 4 p.m. Sunday. After that, performances are at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 13.

Where: Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway

Cost: Sunday’s performance is $12 per person; tickets to subsequent performances are $20-$25.

Information: (480) 350-2822 or

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