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Milagro The Web

A hilarious lesson
Written by Enrique Urueta • Directed by Antonio Sonera
May 1 – 31, 2014

Photo by Russell YoungHanan was born to be a superstar. She’s fabulously talented, beautiful and determined to get to the top.  But for those who want to succeed in a wildly cut-throat music industry competing with reality shows that churn out new “talent” nightly, a few sacrifices must be made along the way.  When the record execs demand that Hanan “consider revising” her identity, she accepts the challenge, taking us all on the most outrageous ride imaginable!

This play, skewering everything from pop culture to cultural identity, has won several awards including the first national Great Gay Play Contest!


Ron Laster, PrintResults
What a show- what energy!!
Saw the show Saturday con mi esposa y mi amigo
Fantastic- very tight performance
Already emailed my base and recommended it very highly.

Photo by Russell YoungLearn to Be Latina (Milagro Theatre)
Is being the wrong kind of brown keeping you down?
May 7th, 2014 REBECCA JACOBSON , Willamette Week

Learn to Be Latina has a little something for everyone. A Missy Elliott dance routine featuring a backflip that transitions into twerking. A muff-eating puppet. AIDS jokes. The Macarena. A tender lesbian love story. A Twin Towers pantomime.

Subtle this is not. But it’s precisely this balls-to-the-wall (including some literal balls, to the walls of a restroom stall) offensiveness that makes Enrique Urueta’s comedy work. Brassy and boisterous with plenty of bombass dance sequences, Learn to be Latina follows an aspiring young pop star named Hanan (Nicole Accuardi) who’s told by the record label that she’s “the wrong kind of brown.” She might be sexy, but in a “shawarma-eating, suicide-bomber kind of way.” So the Lebanese-American Hanan enters identity boot camp to refashion herself as a booty-swiveling, leopard print-wearing, “arriba!”-whooping Latina diva.

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Urueta, who gained national attention for this play, is a brilliantly snappy writer of button-pushing dialogue and killer one-liners: “Identity is as negligible and negotiable as a back-end hooker,” quips “ethnic consultant” Mary O’Malley (Olga Sanchez, who also has a great turn as a tittering talk-show host). Still, Urueta trades in a few worn stereotypes, and his stabs at poignancy miss the mark. That means Hanan’s budding lesbian relationship proves neither steamy nor stirring, and the play ends with an all-too-tidy, overly earnest redemption monologue.

But these Milagro performers, under Antonio Sonera’s confident direction, are so fully committed, so completely switched-on, that the play becomes a showcase for their myriad talents. This is especially true for the trio of record-company functionaries, played with alternately militaristic precision and loose-limbed abandon by Kelly Godell, who pinches her malleable face to hilarious effect; Orion Bradshaw, who styles himself a very sassy Justin Timberlake in a “Dirty Pop” dance routine; and Matthew Kerrigan, responsible for the aforementioned backflip and a fierce “Single Ladies” solo in black leotard and stripper heels.

Within all the silliness, Urueta asks provocative questions about how we revise and edit our identities. It’s perhaps most interesting to see his play as a litmus test for what sorts of jokes still have the capacity to shock—and nevertheless prompt laughter. While some of Urueta’s lines, such as how all lesbians look like either Roseanne or Lyle Lovett, landed with a thud on opening weekend, his most transgressive jabs elicited guffaws as well as gasps, a kind of collective “Did he really go there?” By turning one of the play’s consistent questions—who’s the arbiter of appropriate behavior?—on the audience, Urueta makes his play that much more diabolical, that much more delicious. 

'The Last 5 Years,' 'Learn to be Latina' open in strong productions: theater roundup (reviews)
David Stabler The Oregonian May 05, 2014

A lot of theater opened last weekend (whew!) and our critics were busy. In case you missed any of their reviews, here's a roundup of what they thought of four plays.

Milagro's "Learn to Be Latina" drew comparisons to "My Fair Lady" in Carol Wells' review. "As in everything she does, uber-diva Olga Sanchez’s performance is charged with stage presence and charisma. As Mary, she plays Henry Higgins to Hanan’s Eliza Doolittle, except Henry Higgins never had a sock puppet who goes to the beauty salon for facials and hair weaves. Sanchez’s fans will be surprised and delighted to see this powerful dramatic actress in a comic role. She pulls it off magnificently. Kelly Godell brings both humor and pathos to Jill, a Mary-wannabe who trails her role model around with a simple white gym sock on her hand."

Milagro's 'Learn to Be Latina' negotiates ethnicity, sexuality, identity: Theater review
By Carol Wells | Special to The Oregonian May 04, 2014

Photo by Russell YoungSet in a multimedia, ironic, post-Obama world, the MTV-influenced “Learn to be Latina” is an upside-down theatrical grandchild of “My Fair Lady.” Currently in production at the Milagro Theatre, it unflinchingly negotiates issues of ethnicity, sexuality and identity, and it appears to be on the cutting edge of what the theater of tomorrow will look like.

In his game-changing 2008 speech about race, then-candidate Barack Obama acknowledged that even his own beloved white grandmother “on more than one occasion uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.” This not only shone a light upon the convoluted, fraught, state of racial relationships in our country, but it made it all right to discuss it honestly in the public sphere.

Playwright Enrique Urueta, who traveled to Portland for this production, takes that permission and runs with it. Together with director Antonio Sonera he has produced a rowdy, irreverent, splendid work. It is about a young songwriter, Hanan (the starry-eyed Nicole Accuardi), who yearns to be a pop star. Her wish is granted by Mary of the FAD agency, who vows to lead her to the Top 40. There is one snag, however: Hanan comes from the “wrong” ethnic group for today’s pop stardom. To ensure success, she must become a “hot Latina,” Jennifer Lopez-style.

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As in everything she does, uber-diva Olga Sanchez’s performance is charged with stage presence and charisma. As Mary, she plays Henry Higgins to Hanan’s Eliza Doolittle, except Henry Higgins never had a sock puppet who goes to the beauty salon for facials and hair weaves. Sanchez’s fans will be surprised and delighted to see this powerful dramatic actress in a comic role. She pulls it off magnificently. Kelly Godell brings both humor and pathos to Jill, a Mary-wannabe who trails her role model around with a simple white gym sock on her hand.

Photo by Russell YoungThe interwoven plot about gayness and secrecy makes the identity theme more complex and dense, but, in my only criticism of the play, perhaps tries to pack in too much because the play’s central romantic relationship simply does not have time to develop. This also gives short shrift to the obvious abilities of Michelle Escobar as Blanca.

The doings of another gay couple (the zany Orion Bradshaw and the absurdly talented Matthew Kerrigan), are played for laughs and work especially well during a farcical, off-the-chain chase scene, part of which takes place in a couple of bathroom stalls.

The creative team behind this performance plays with layers of style. The offices of FAD are made fashionably bleak by set designer Mark Haack. The dancers (Lauren Mitchell, Sarah DeGrave, Louise Chambers, and Cari Spinnler, with choreography by Chip Sherman that folds perfectly into the madness of the play) sport outfits that are part MTV, part 1920s bathing beauty contest, and look great doing it, thanks to costumer Emily Powell Wright.

We mostly deal nowadays with difficult issues through the remove of ironic humor, as if our problems are too charged to be faced head-on. This play feeds ethnic and sexual identity stereotypes into the wood chipper and grinds them up, but the buzzing noise is initially covered by the sound of laughter. What follows as the detachment dissolves is a bit searing: there is purgation, as the anger of unfair stereotypes is released, and then there is hard reflection, as we contemplate how we have created own identities, and how we have permitted them to be created for us.

Patron Comment: Gary Corbin
Having attended the preview show and loved - Loved - LOVED it, I highly recommend this show! It will entertain you, challenge every bias you have about stereotypes and those who cling to them, and make you laugh even when you wish you could cry. Great acting, movement, timing and visual engagement. Top notch.

Patron Comment: Tracy K.
I thought the show was awesome.  It is my favorite production that I have seen at Milagro.  It was so hilarious and I loved the satire around different prejudices.  It was a relief to let stereotypes fly in a funny way. The way that it made fun of everyone and everything emphasized the ridiculousness of biases.  I also enjoyed the theme of identity. Thanks!

With Oregon Humanities’ support, Milagro will provide three significant conversations that will complement the May production of Enrique Urueta’s Learn to be Latina, a raucous comedy about a talented young Lebanese American woman who's told she must pretend to be Latina and straight if she wants to succeed in the world of pop music stardom. 

Identity is at the heart of everyone’s experience, affecting how we see ourselves and how others see us.  Learn to be Latina: Identity Bootcamp will provide a unique opportunity to engage in conversations with artists, scholars and talent agents, who negotiate the subject of identity in different ways.  Their participation, sharing personal, professional and historical experiences, will provide a rich foundation for our participants to inquire:

Identity Bootcamp will be hosted at El Centro Milagro, 525 SE Stark, Portland, on Sundays following the 2pm matinee performances (approximately 4pm).  The event starts with a reception that then evolves into our conversations.  Local leaders and scholars will provide an initial exploration of the topics and then the discussions will open up to audience questions and commentary and more conversation!

The questions that will launch our conversations are:

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SUNDAY MAY 4th ~ Just Who Do You Think You Are? 
With:  Enrique Urueta Playwright;  Victor I. Cazares A founding member of new theater house; Brenda Ivelisse, Associate Dean of Students at Portland Community College-Rock Creek, is a transformative educator active within the immigrant rights community.   

In Learn To Be Latina, Hanan is re-invented. She changes her name, learns a little Spanish and whole new cultural framework from which to talk about herself, raising questions about the mutability of identity.  Visiting playwright Enrique Urueta will lead the conversation with guest scholars about his inspiration for this work, how artists reflect identity in their works, and how true life provides examples of transformed identities. In art as in life, how is identity accepted, ascribed or re-created?  How does it impact how we are treated or treat others?

SUNDAY, MAY 11 ~ Star Maker Machinery
With: Kathryn C. Oleson, Professor of Psychology at Reed College; Eryn Goodman is Casting Director at Cast Iron Studios since 2005; David Cress an award winning media producer.

According to the play’s record executives, Hanan is “fiercely talented” and “hot, hot, hot”.  The only thing keeping her from super stardom is her ethnic identity which she must change if she wants to achieve fame and fortune.   Talent agents and scholars talk about the power of the media to shape our perceptions.  What does it take to become a superstar in the commercial marketplace?  Is it as calculating and manipulative as the play makes it out to be?  Are we, as consumers, part of the problem? 

SUNDAY ~ MAY 18th ~ It's a Girl! 
With: Kate Bredeson, D.F.A., is a theatre historian and a dramaturg; Kevin Cook, aka Rose Empress XLIV Poison Waters, entertainer and LGBT Community Leader; Hannah Kosstrin, Ph.D., is a dance scholar situated at the intersection of dance, Jewish, and gender studies.

Mary tells Hanan, “Identity is whatever you choose to perform at any given time.”  Gender identification is generally ascribed at birth but this identification may not reflect how a person feels or how they wish to be seen.  Advances in science and cosmetology have made gender re-creation more achievable than ever.  Scholars and drag performers will address the impact of gender mutability.  What is performance identity?  When we change gender appearance, how does it transform our relationship with others? 

All Three Conversations Will Be Moderated By Vicente Guzman-Orozco:
Vicente Guzman-Orozco is a Portland-based writer, performer and self-described “artivist” whose personal and collaborative projects frequently touch on the intersections of immigrant, youth and LGBT rights


May 1 to 31, 2014

Preview Thursday May 1.
Opening night May 2 with complimentary reception catered by Pambiche; wines from A to Z wines y Montinore Estate

Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.

Just Who Do You Think You Are?

Star Maker Machinery

It's a Girl! 

Learn to Be Latina is
Sponsored by

Nicole Accuardi …Hanan
Orion Bradshaw…Bill/Fight Captain
Kelly Godell…Jill
Matthew  Kerrigan…Will
Olga Sanchez*…Mary
Michelle  Escobar…Blanca
Lauren Mitchell…FAD Girl
Sarah DeGrave…FAD Girl
Louise  Chambers …FAD Girl/Dance Captain
Cari Spinnler ….FAD Girl

*Member of Actors Equity Association
Antonio Sonera …Director
Mark Haack …Set Design
Jeff  Woods…Lighting Design
Emily Wright…Costume Design
Rodolfo Ortega…Sound Design
Chip Sherman…Choreographer
Nicki D'Amico…Props
Andres  Alcala…Slides Video
Katie  Watkins …Assistant director
Alyssa Essman …Stage Manager
Julie Rosequist…Sound Board Op
Estela Robinson…Prod Manager
Eric  Lyness…Technical Director

Enrique Urueta, Playwright
Enrique Urueta's plays include The Johnson Administration, The Danger of Bleeding Brown, Learn To Be Latina, and Forever Never Comes.  He has received a Jerome Fellowship, was a Walter Dakin fellow at the Sewanee Writer's Conference, and was an NEA Fellow at The MacDowell Colony. He received the New Works Fund award for Forever Never Comes from Theatre Bay Area and was a runner-up for the 2009 Yale Drama Series prize for The Danger of Bleeding Brown. Learn To Be Latina won the inaugural Great Gay Play contest sponsored by Pride Films & Plays and was named Best Ensemble Comedy of 2010 by the SF Weekly, which also named him Best Up-And-Coming Playwright of 2010. MFA Brown.

Miracle Theatre Group 425 SE 6th Avenue Portland, Oregon 97214 503-236-7253
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Miracle Theatre Group