Photo above: Dañel Malan, Teatro Milagro Artistic Director and Jose Eduardo Gonzalez, Executive Director
By Michelle Frost
The only Hispanic theater production company in the Pacific Northwest lives right here in SE Portland. Miracle Theater/Teatro Milagro moved into its present location at 525 SE Stark in 1995, enlivening the community with Latino shows and arts and culture including bilingual performances, as well as community festivals and educational workshops.
Jose Eduardo Gonzalez, Executive Director, and Dañel Malan, Teatro Milagro Artistic Director, founded the Miracle Theater Group a.k.a. Milagro in 1985 as a non-profit organization. The pair met at UCLA in the early 1980’s as students of theater.
“We were both studying the technical side of theater,” Gonzalez explains, “I was into scenic design and Dañel was a costumer.”
They moved to Portland after graduating and decided to start their own production company. In 1989, inspired by his nostalgia for the Southwest, they created the first Hispanic Cultural Festival. At that time, with only five or six theater companies in town. “Visibility was easier to get and we built a reputation,” Gonzalez explains, “We built a following. The first productions were pretty much out-of-pocket and then in the early ‘90’s we turned a corner.”
After purchasing the building in 1997, operations evolved into the full working space of today which includes front and back offices, a conference room, art gallery space, a dance/rehearsal studio, a scene shop, and props and costume storage area, in addition to the mainstage.
“We knocked out a wall here and a wall there and we no longer had to walk outside to get to the other side of the building,” Gonzalez chuckles recalling those early days.
Today the theater company operates through three arms: The Miracle Mainstage with English language productions at the theater; Teatro Milagro, the international touring company with bilingual English/Spanish productions; and Bellas Artes, a multidisciplinary company that stages community-based events such as the annual Dia de los Muertos, Los Posadas festivals and educational programs, community classes and workshops.
“Our focus is the underserved,” Gonzalez says, “where the need is greatest.”
Malan has since returned to graduate school and received her Master’s degree in Curriculum Design. She is writing a textbook for teachers and art educators which will be translated into four languages.
“I performed until 2013 and in 2014, I wrote and directed a play,” Malan says, “after that,” she smiles, “I let the younger people take over.” As Artistic Director, her time now is filled with managing the touring program which has four artists working with approximately 10,000 students each year; the mainstage, with 5-6 shows each year, drawing in about 10,000 audience members; and Milagro’s community events which reach another 3,000 to 4,000 people.
The annual fundraiser, Viva Milagro, is November 1 from 6:30 to 9 pm in the gallery space, El Zocalo at Milagro. All are invited to this Day of the Dead family-style dinner with live entertainment and a silent auction featuring art from Mexico.
“Zocalo in Mexico City is the main square, where people gather,” Gonzalez explains, “Zocalo also means ‘base’ and our foundation has been this community.”
An Altars exhibition is currently on display in the gallery, and a new show runs through November 6, El Muerto Vagabundo, a play conceived and directed by Georgina Escobar, artist-in-residence at Milagro this season.
The two hour show explores the concept of ‘homeless’ muertos, inspired by an obituary of a homeless veteran without friends and family.
For information/ tickets see milagro.org or 503.236.7253.