Over more than thirty years, Milagro has taken us on emotional roller-coasters – that is, after all their business – and their next two events are one more exciting ride. From the music, food and cheer of their annual Posada Milagro to a poignant story of betrayal and exploitation in Broken Promises, the company will close 2015 with a party, but start January back at work on consciousness-raising art.
This mainly Spanish-speaking event is a crowd favorite of long standing, and it is easy to understand why. There are activities for all ages from storytelling for children under 5, to craft activities, a piñata, and traditional foods for purchase. It also features two showings of an original pastorela, or shepherds’ Christmas pageant. While all the activities and the performances are free, the entry into the show requires tickets that will be distributed on a first-come basis starting at 1pm. The tradition of the posada song, whose lyrics are a conversation between an innkeeper and the biblical Joseph and Mary seeking refuge for Jesus to be born, has been adapted by the theatre, with the audience singing the part of the travelers, asking to be let in to see the performance. Typically, this is done before being let in to a posada party. While the pastorela generally follows the story of shepherds trying to reach the manger of the story without being waylaid by inept devils, Milagro’s versions are engaging for the whole family (even for non-Spanish speakers) because they are also heavy on music and dance with colorful costumes.
As a volunteer-based event, it gives many people a chance to participate in the theatre even if it is the only day of the year they do so. The performers are often young (and not so young) people who use this as an opportunity to explore the stage, as well as many of professional who have collaborated with Milagro over the years and consider this their artistic home for the holidays. It is really a community putting on a show for another part of their community, with the theatre providing the space, the props, and the costumes. Posada Milagro also serves to give back, collecting donations to benefit the Oregon Food Bank.
Go for the tamales, stay for the show, and bust a piñata! The fun starts when the doors at 537 SE Stark (the “Zócalo” entrance at the corner) open at 1 pm on December 13.
The journey for Adriana is far from the comedy of the pastorela. In the most recent offering by the outreach company of Milagro tells the story of a young woman’s betrayal and her progressive despair. Written in collaboration with Planned Parenthood by former Milagro artistic director Olga Sanchez, Broken Promises goes into the shadows of our communities to help us discuss openly the factors at play in sexual trafficking, and especially to include young people in the conversation “to stop the theft of innocence with empty promises.”
The lead role is in the capable hands of Monica Domena, who joined Milagro’s nationally touring program last year. Stalwart Teatro Milagro artist Ajai Terrazas Tripathi plays Adriana’s father and various characters, while Shenekah Telles plays Adriana’s friend Josefina, who tries to prevent her seduction and downfall. Her route to perdition is embodied by Giovanni Alva, who plays the alluring but destructive Stefan.
But it is not a one-dimensional cautionary tale. The play is crafted such that performances can serve as springboards for conversations and, ideally, can be paired with OYE sexual health workshops (especially where such information may be limited by chance or design). OYE (Spanish acronym of “Options and Education”) is an educational outreach program co-founded by Milagro in 2010 that addresses issues crucial to the sexual and reproductive health of adults as well as youth, such as body image, healthy relationships, sexual orientation and gender identity. During the two-weekend run at Milagro, each performance will be accompanied by a guest speaker on a pertinent subject, from the development of the play, to mental and sexual health experts, to housing, law and sexual assault resources. A resource fair is scheduled after the matinee on 1/17.
It may seem like Broken Promises goes beyond what Teatro Milagro, the touring arm of the company that goes into the schools, has been geared towards during its history. In reality, it is an extension of different initiatives the program has engaged in. For several years now, under the direction of its creator (and Milagro co-founder) Dañel Malán, the program has offered distinct performances for different age groups, along three channels, as it were. While the “all-ages” plays are closer to the earliest work of the touring company, the middle-school and high-school to adult categories have not shied away from issues and situations of full dramatic impact.
While telling a familiar story of descent into prostitution, Broken Promises is the continuation of the frank conversations that Milagro has always invited to have and its planned complements are the extensions of its study guides and activity workshops. Using theatre “to enrich all communities” is part of the company’s mission, and that’s a promise Teatro Milagro is bent on keeping.
Jan. 14-23, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30pm, Sunday matinee at 2:00.
Featured speakers by date:
14 – Amanda McLaughlin Barreto, Planned Parenthood, who helped in the development of the script.
16 –SARC (Sexual Assault Resource Center) will discuss about their CSEC program, which provides services for sexually exploited youth.
17 – Molly Franks, Multnomah County Health Department, co-founder of OYE.
21 – Warren Binford, Director of the Clinical Law Program at Willamette University who works with victims of violence and sex abuse, specifically children.
22 – Joel Shapiro, attorney who specializes in combating child sex trafficking and violence against women.
23 – Kendra Harding from LifeWorks NW, which provides critical access to prevention and addiction mental health services for those in need.