The Northwest's premiere Latino
arts and culture organization
Office: 425 SE 6th Avenue
Theatre: 525 SE Stark
Portland OR 97214

Milagro The Web

An original, bilingual celebration of Day of the Dead
Directed by Olga Sanchez

Photo by Russell YoungEvery fall, the dead are commemorated in a lively show of dance, music and theatre in Portland’s longest-running Day of the Dead celebration. This year, los muertos return accompanied by the legendary Don Juan, that selfish rogue who took great pleasure in defying the opponents of his romantic interests. But when the world’s most devilish romantic revisits the living on Día de los muertos, he soon discovers a new perspective on life, love and second chances.

Auda Marie 11/15/10
I was able to experience Viva Don Juan yesterday and have to say it was truly the most delightful, entertaining, and funny play I have ever seen!  The music was superb, the actors incredible, and the writing and directing of this little miracle makes me want to come back there often and soon.
Thank you again for a memorable afternoon.

Rochelle 11/14/10
I loved the show. This is only the second one of your shows that I have seen, "Don Quijote" being the first. (I am fairly new to Portland.) The creativity and humor are delightful. I am enthralled with the bilingual aspect and that there is a place for the marvelous cultures of Spain, Mexico, Central and South America. I will be back.
Thank you for such quality in an intimate setting.

Dustin 11/6/10
I really liked this show.  One of the best Day of the Dead's I can recall!

Wendy & Norman 11/6/10
That was a fantastic show - we loved it!!!
We just called our son to recommend it to him, and were happy to hear that he and another
teacher will be taking their 8th grade Spanish class to see the play next weekend!
I also forwarded your email to some friends. (Pretty good marketing technique.....)
Thanks for a great show,

Christy and Co. at RHS 11/5/10
What a spectacular show!!  The students were RAVING about it.  The parent chaperones repeatedly commented on how wonderful the show was.  I can't thank you both enough for a stunning production and impressive cast.  They were energetic, committed, connected and extremely entertaining and engaging.  We had a delightful time.  
Students were also very impressed with the altar display in the adjacent space.  What a day you gave us!  
Your dedication and multiple talents are evident in the high quality of this production.  We loved it.

adolfo 11/5/10
I just went to a show at teatro milagro and saw "el Don Juan",  it was great, the consuela singing was powerfull,  ya saben cuando te da escalo frio!,.. made hairs on my arm stand up. 

Eric 11/1/10
I really enjoyed the production of Don Juan.  The acting and music were superb—and the song Paloma in particularly was incredibly well executed.  When she sang, it gave me shivers down my spine, it was so full of feeling and beauty.  I hope we get to hear her again!

Ronni 11/1/10
I made VIVA DON JUAN my Halloween Celebration and had an amazing, colorful, uplifting experience! This is such a spirited show with great ensemble work--terrific acting, singing and dancing, and such an original take on the Don Juan story. The cast is so talented and is having such a great time on stage that the audien...ce is drawn right in, clapping and cheering, laughing and crying. Beautiful work--muchissimas gracias!

Bertha 10/31/10
As I told you on Friday night, this is an splendid performance, one of the best I've seen at Milagro -  kudos to all!!!!

¡Viva Don Juan!
Willamette Week, November 10, 2010

Miracle Theatre’s annual Day of the Dead show is always enjoyable, bilingual, populist entertainment, with music and dance and humor strung together by a thin plot or theme. This year’s installment, directed by Olga Sanchez, is more coherent than most and, while less artistically ambitious than some of its predecessors, it is more consistently entertaining. The ghost of Don Juan (James Peck, an excellently hammy Portland newcomer), upset that his poor reputation has left him with no one to build him an altar on El Día de los Muertos, makes a deal with the devil to return for one day to join a production of a play about his life and set the record straight. There follows some philandering, some swordplay, some mockery of bourgeois cultural pretension, a lot of bawdy humor and a few very well performed songs. A good time, all told.

Rehabbing Don Juan 
The Miracle's Annual Day of the Dead Show Scores Again
by Alison Hallett
Portland Mercury, November 3, 2010
REVIEWING THE RASH of Christmas-themed theater that breaks out every holiday season is unquestionably the worst part of my job. I've got no beef with Christmas itself, but the attendant entertainment glut is the height of tackiness, as audiences pay top dollar for their annual dose of synthetic goodwill. Halloween shows fare better—I'll take fake gore over fake cheer any day. Better still is the Miracle Theatre's annual Day of the Dead show, which celebrates Mexico's Día de los Muertos with an original production combining theater, music, and dance.

The details of the Miracle's annual date with death vary—this year's offering is more linear than usual, as the character-driven ¡Viva Don Juan! draws from history and language more than movement.

The premise is a little meta: The spirit of the famously lusty Don Juan (James Peck) is concerned that, because of his tarnished reputation, no one will build him an altar on the Day of the Dead. He makes a pact with the devil that earns him one more day on earth to try to salvage his legacy. To do so, he falls in with a group of actors who are producing a play about his life, where he tries to change the way his story is told.

Two of the show's most stunning moments come via song, in Spanish-language numbers from Sofia May-Cuxim and Sara Fay Goldman that promptly made me tear up even though I had no idea what was actually being said. (Do any other monolingual white people have this problem? Ladies singing in Spanish—gets me every time.) Of course, Act One should've ended after May-Cuxim brought the crowd to swift, earnest applause—that there was another scene before intermission is only one of the problem areas in a flabby script that could stand to lose a good 30 minutes. And you'll have to forgive a few plot twists ripped straight from the telenovelas: Don Juan's long-lost daughter! Etc.

But the show's strengths handily outweigh its weaknesses. James Peck is new to Portland stages, and his characterization of Don Juan is assured and conspiratorial, promptly winning the audience to his side even despite his character's well known... foibles. Song and dance numbers are lively, and jokes hit equally in English and (judging from the laughs) Spanish. If this show isn't already a holiday tradition? Make it one.

Theater review: 'Viva Don Juan' proves a surprisingly taut production
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Richard Wattenberg, Special to The Oregonian

It's late autumn in Portland. Outside there's a chilly, misty drizzle, but inside the Miracle Theatre, there's warmhearted fun to be had. In what has become one of Portland's most endearing theater traditions, the Miracle Theatre Group offers its annual bilingual celebration of the "Day of the Dead."

Photo by Russell YoungUnder director Olga Sanchez's  artful eye, this year's edition, "Viva Don Juan," features the usual combination of song, dance, comedy and drama, but integrates them into a surprisingly taut production of a story abounding in various cultural resonances.
"Viva Don Juan" is set in Mexico of the 1890s, a time when, as Sanchez tells us in the program, "the Mexican upper-classes are embracing all things European as the standard for culture and grace." The play revolves around the legendary Spanish scoundrel Don Juan, but sometimes recalls the supernatural flair of a Faust tale, sometimes suggests the romance of "Cyrano de Bergerac" and sometimes flirts with the illusion-vs.-reality conundrum of a Pirandello play. In the end, however, it's just plain entertaining.

In keeping with the spirit of the season, this Don Juan is dead and has returned to life on the Day of the Dead in the hope of redeeming himself. Joining up with a company of players who are preparing to perform a celebrated romantic melodrama about Don Juan, Don Juan finds himself cast as the womanizer's arch enemy, Don Luis. As he takes part in the rehearsals of this play, he has the opportunity to relive his past. As he comes to know the members of the acting company, he realizes that the past is also the present.

Ultimately, "Viva Don Juan" is an exploration of the nature of love. The lustful game of machismo conquest, the deeply felt romantic love and the sacrificing love of a parent for a child are all thoughtfully weighed and balanced against each other.

Photo by Russell YoungThe often-touching play teeters on the edge of the sentimental but never falls in. Pathos is skillfully balanced by comedy. The play-within-the-play structure allows for some broadly humorous parodies of an overly romantic melodramatic performance style. The inflated gestures of this acting approach are seen for the silly poses they are, and we are left with a much more grounded sense of what it is to be and to love.

In past Miracle Theatre "Day of the Dead" plays, the story was primarily an occasion for singing and dancing. This year singing and dancing are fully assimilated into the story and actors use these elements to deepen their characterizations. The ballads take on more meaning because they are so closely connected to the circumstances affecting the characters singing them. Even during the group dance numbers, the actors give us characters who continue to interact with each other -- sometimes in ways that intriguingly counterpoint the mood of the musical number.

Still the music and dancing provide the show with many of its highpoints. Especially impressive is how well the onstage music performed by cast members is seamlessly supported and sometimes gives way taped music.

The play's multiple musical and dance demands, as well as the various acting styles required by "Viva Don Juan," calls for a company of versatile performers and director Olga Sanchez has put together such a cast. James Peck gives us a larger-than-life but always likable Don Juan. Peck plays the role with panache, but also with a fine sense of irony. Whether he 's heroically sweeping his cape off his shoulder, gracefully teaching others the art of thrust and parry, or playfully demonstrating the lion-like aspects of overly pumped up testosterone- driven males, he is always smoothly in control. And yet Peck clearly traces the character's deepening emotional life.

As his rival in the acting company, Guillem, Matt Volner  offers us a tightly wound, overly arrogant self-obsessed character. As evil as Guillem is, Volner lets us see the cowardly fearful puppy that underlies the mask. thus preventing the character from slipping too far in the direction of melodrama.

Sara Fay Goldman  ably captures the independent spirit of the play's heroine, Isabela,  and Enrique E. Andrade  humorously portrays the clumsy timidity of a well-meaning engineer-turned-actor.

 While the play may benefit from some careful cutting, it is generally well-paced and the actors adeptly use Mark Haack's  scenic representation of an arcade and plaza complete with a small actors' platform. Maria Ferrin's  imaginative and colorful period costumes and Dug Martell's  lighting, which clearly delineates the movement between play and play-within-play, also serve the production well.

(from an article by Ricardo J. Salvador)

This is an ancient festivity that has been much transformed through the years, but which was intended in pre-Hispanic Mexico to celebrate children and the dead.  Hence, the best way to describe this Mexican holiday is to say that it is a time when Mexican families remember their dead, and the continuity of life.

Two important things to know about the Mexican Day of the Dead (Día de los muertos) are: It is a holiday with a complex history, and therefore its observance varies quite a bit by region and by degree of urbanization. It is not a morbid occasion, but rather a festive time.

The original celebration can be traced to many Mesoamerican native traditions, such as the festivities held during the Aztec month of Miccailhuitontli, ritually presided by the “Lady of the Dead" (Mictecacihuatl), and dedicated to children and the dead. In the Aztec calendar, this ritual fell roughly at the end of the Gregorian month of July and the beginning of August, but in the post-conquest era it was moved by Spanish priests so that it coincided with the Christian holiday of All Saints Day (in Spanish: "Día de Todos Santos.") This was a vain effort to transform the observance from a profane to a Christian celebration. The result is that Mexicans now celebrate the day of the dead during the first two days of November, rather than at the beginning of summer. But remember the dead they still do, and the modern festivity is characterized by the traditional Mexican blend of ancient aboriginal and introduced Christian features.

Generalizing broadly, the holiday's activities consist of families (1) welcoming their dead back into their homes, and (2) visiting the graves of their close kin. At the cemetery, family members engage in sprucing up the gravesite, decorating it with flowers, setting out and enjoying a picnic, and interacting socially with other family and community members who gather there. In both cases, celebrants believe that the souls of the dead return and are all around them. Families remember the departed by telling stories about them. The meals prepared for these picnics are sumptuous, usually featuring meat dishes in spicy sauces, chocolate beverages, cookies, sugary confections in a variety of animal or skull shapes, and a special egg-batter bread ("pan de muerto," or bread of the dead). Gravesites and family altars are profusely decorated with flowers (primarily large, bright flowers such as marigolds and chrysanthemums), and adorned with religious amulets and with offerings of food, cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. Because of this warm social environment, the colorful setting, and the abundance of food, drink and good company, this commemoration of the dead has pleasant overtones for the observers, in spite of the open fatalism exhibited by all participants, whose festive interaction with both the living and the dead in an important social ritual is a way of recognizing the cycle of life and death that is human existence.

In homes, observant families create an altar and decorate it with items that they believe are beautiful and attractive to the souls of their departed ones.  Such items include offerings of flowers and food, but also things that will remind the living of the departed (such as their photographs, a diploma, or an article of clothing), and the things that the dead prized and enjoyed while they lived.  This is done to entice the dead and assure that their souls actually return to take part in the remembrance.

In very traditional settings, typically found only in native communities, the path from the street to the altar is actually strewn with petals to guide the returning soul to its altar and the bosom of the family. The traditional observance calls for departed children to be remembered during the first day of the festivity (the Day of the Little Angels, El día de los Angelitos), and for adults to be remembered on the second day. Traditionally, this is accompanied by a feast during the early morning hours of November the 2nd, the Day of the Dead proper, though modern urban Mexican families usually observe the Day of the Dead with only a special family supper featuring the bread of the dead. In southern Mexico, for example in the city of Puebla, it is good luck to be the one who bites into the plastic toy skeleton hidden by the baker in each rounded loaf. Friends and family members give one another gifts consisting of sugar skeletons or other items with a death motif, and the gift is more prized if the skull or skeleton is embossed with one's own name.

Another variation found in the state of Oaxaca is for the bread to be molded into the shape of a body or burial wrap, and for a face to be embedded on one end of the loaf.  During the days leading up to and following the festivity, some bakeries in heavily aboriginal communities cease producing the wide range of breads that they typically sell so that they can focus on satisfying the demand for bread of the dead.

The Day of the Dead can range from being a very important cultural event, with defined social and economic responsibilities for participants (exhibiting the socially equalizing behavior that social anthropologists would call redistributive feasting, e.g. on the island of Janitzio in Michoacan state), to being a religious observance featuring actual worship of the dead (e.g., as in Cuilapan, Oaxaca, an ancient capital of the Zapotec people, who venerated their ancestors and whose descendants do so to this day, an example of many traditional practices that Spanish priests pretend not to notice), to simply being a uniquely Mexican holiday characterized by special foods and confections (the case in all large Mexican cities.) In general, the more urban the setting within Mexico the less religious and cultural importance is retained by observants, while the more rural and Indian the locality the greater the religious and economic import of the holiday. Because of this, this observance is usually of greater social importance in southern Mexico than in the northern part of the country.

October 29-November 14, 2010

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Day of the Dead Altar Exhibit
From Oct. 26 through Nov. 14, 2010, webalteredDSCF7045.jpg

Miracle Theatre Group is pleased to display an exhibit of ofrendas (altars) created by local Latino artists in celebration of Día de los muertos (Day of the Dead). The exhibit, curated by Pepe Moscoso of FusionArte and sponsored by the Consulate of Mexico in Portland, is free and open to the public.

Los Porteños Day of the Dead Poetry & Fiction Reading

Oct 31, Noon, Free
El Centro Milagro

Los Porteños is a Portland-area Latino writers group of emerging and established fiction writers, journalists, bloggers, dramatists and poets.  Established in 2007 and hosted by Miracle Theatre Group, the group meets regularly to share new work to develop the skills and art of each writer.  2010 marks the group’s third Día de los muertos literary reading.

Frank Delgado , Catherine Evleshin, Joann Farías. Alberto Moreno. Emma Oliver, Ivonne Saed , Cindy Williams Gutiérrez

James Peck … Don Juan
Sara Fay Goldman … Isabel
Nurys Herrera … Margarita
Sofia May Cuxim … Brigida
Enrique E. Andrade … Calixto
Matt Volner … Jaime
Sarah Peters … Francine
Olga Sanchez … Director
Hal Logan … Musical Director/Sound Designer
Mark Haack … Scenic Designer
Dug Martell … Lighting Designer
Maria Ferrin … Costume Designer/Choreographer
Sarah Lydecker … Prop Master
Lisa Coye … Dramaturge
Gavin Hales … Stage Manager
Rebecca Lewis … Carpenter
Wailana Kalama … Sound Technician
Sylvia Malán and Sarah Hinds … House Managers


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Miracle Theatre Group