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Milagro (Miracle Theatre Group) Oral History Collection, 2015

By Natalia Fernández and Aimee Hisey

Collection Overview

Title: Milagro (Miracle Theatre Group) Oral History Collection, 2015

ID: OH 031

Primary Creator: Jager, Michael Dean

Extent: 9.5 gigabytes. More info below.

Arrangement: Interviews are arranged chronologically by date of interview.

Date Acquired: 00/00/2015

Languages of Materials: English [eng], Spanish;Castilian [spa]

Abstract

The Milagro (Miracle Theatre Group) Oral History Collection consists of interviews conducted with theatre members past and present who have worked with Milagro in different capacities. Milagro provides a theater experience which emphasizes Latino theatre, culture, and arts education. Documented within the collection are interviews from members of Milagro, their experiences, how the company has changed them, and what they feel is the "miracle" of Milagro.

Scope and Content Notes

The collection consists of seven digital recordings (6 video and 1 audio) of interviews with Milagro members past and present. Video recordings were captured in *.mov format, the audio recording was an *.mp3 file, all files have been saved as preservation copies for each interview. Access files have been created for each interview as well. All interviews held within the collection have been summarized by the staff of the Special Collections and Archives Research Center. Researcher access to the collection's interviews is available on site and online. Links to online videos are provided within the item level description of this collection.

Six of the seven interviews were conducted in Portland, Oregon by Mike Jager, Oregon State University Student, and one by Natalia Fernandez, the Oregon Multicultural Librarian and staff member of the Special Collections and Archives Research Center. One of the interviews was conducted remotely by Mike Jager as Carlos Alexis Cruz was in Charlotte, North Carolina at the time. Interviewees include Milagro theatre members past and present. Milagro was founded in 1985 and provides a theatre experience which emphasizes Latino culture, theatre, and arts education. Topics discussed include: member experieinces, how Milagro has changed them, and what they feel is the "miracle" of Milagro.

All interviews indexed and available online via the Multicultural Voices of Oregon Chicanx and Latinx Voices wesbite.

Biographical / Historical Notes

Milagro was founded in 1985 and provides a theatre experieince which emphsaizes Latino culture, theatre, and arts education. Milagro provides these experieinces in hopes of enriching all communities. The interviewees below detail the ways in which Milagro has changed their lives as artists and how they feel Milagro has contributed to the Latino community in Portland, Oregon and beyond.

Bob Hicks is a cultural journalist in Portland, OR. He has written about both art and culture in Portland since 1978. He worked as a movie critic for The Oregon Journal and wrote in The Oregonian for 25 years. He has followed Milagro from the beginning of its creation. After leaving The Oregonian in 2007, Bob freelanced exclusively. He currently runs a blog and writes the popular daily art-history series “Today I Am” on Facebook.

Olga Sanchez is the Artistic Director (AD) of Milagro, a post she has occupied since 2003. She is described as a person who wears many hats: actor, director, writer, and educator. She graduated from Hunter College, C.U.N.Y. Her work as a director has been seen across the world from Portland to New York, Peru, and Cuba. She is a founder of La Casa de Artes, a Seattle-based non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating Latino arts and culture. She holds an MA from Pacific Oaks College NW and in 2005, received a Portland Drama Critics’ DRAMMY award. Olga is also a founding member of the Portland-based Latino writers group Los Porteños, and currently serves on the Executive Committee for Theatre Communications Group’s Board of Directors. She is on the Steering Committee for the Oregon Latino Agenda for Action, a member of the Greater Portland Vancouver Indicators Diversity and Arts & Culture committees, and a graduate of the Hispanic Metropolitan Leadership Program. Olga stepped down from her post as Artistic Director in 2015 in order to pursue a doctorate in theatre arts from the University of Oregon.

Russell J. Young is a Commercial and Fine Art Photographer based in Portland, Oregon.  He has traveled to and photographed in more than 30 different countries. His photographic genres include commercial, fine art, portraiture, fitness, sports, performing arts, landscape, outdoor adventure, travel and culture. Russell believes each genre compliments the end result of the others. The completion of his new SE Portland studio has allowed him the space to meet with clients, and an environment to express long held artistic inspirations.

Eva Rotter-Johnson is a Reading Specialist at Alder Elementary school in Portland, OR. She is originally from Venezuela and came to the United States (US) to attend school in South Carolina. After meeting her husband, she moved to Oregon and they settled in Portland. She became involved with Milagro after deciding to pursue her passion for acting. She has been with Milagro for over 24 years. Rotter-Johnson has appeared in many of Milagro’s productions and continues to work with them to this day.

Sacha Reich is the founder of the Jewish Theatre Collaborative (JTC). She is currently the executive director. She has directed plays for both the JTC and Milagro, and continues to work in theatre arts.

Daniel Jáquez grew up in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Texas and his Master of Fine Arts in directing from the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University. Daniel has been with Milagro since 2002 and has worked as both an actor and director, while also serving as the Artistic Associate of Milagro during this time. Daniel’s 2001 direction of Icarus earned him a Drammy award. When Artistic Director Olga Sanchez stepped down from her post, Daniel served as the interim director of Milagro from 2015-2016.

Carlos Alexis Cruz is a professor at the University of North Carolina (NC) in Charlotte, NC. There, he teaches physical theatre and acrobatics for actors. Carlos has a Master of Fine Arts in physical theater from the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre. Carlos spent time as a full time company member of the Do Jump! Dance Theatre and of the Imago Theatre. Both companies toured internationally. After deciding to give back to his community, he found the Milagro Theatre and worked on a number of productions for Milagro as both an actor and as a director. This allowed him to use his background in physical theatre and acrobatics as well. Carlos later founded the Pelú, a production company based in Portland, which fuses circus and theatre and focuses on telling stories through a Latino lens.



Author: Daniel Loera and Aimee Hisey

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 9.5 GB, 6 video files, 1 audio file

Statement on Access: The collection is open for research.

Acquisition Note: All interviews were conducted by Mike Jager, Oregon State University student and Natalia Fernández, the Oregon Multicultural Librarian and a staff member of the Special Collections and Archives Research Center.

Related Materials:

This collection is a component of the Oregon Multicultural Archives. A complimentary collection to this set of oral histories is the Milagro (Miracle Theatre Group) Records, 1966-2014.

Other oral history collections devoted to or placing a strong emphasis on multicultural themes include the Oregon Native American Language Sound Recordings (OH 12), the Japanese-American Association of Lane County, Oregon Oral History Collection (OH 15), the Oregon Multicultural Archives Oral History Collection (OH 18), the Oregon State University Cultural Centers Oral History Collection (OH 21), the Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Collection (OH 26) and the African-American Railroad Porter Oral History Collection (OH 29).

Preferred Citation: Milagro (Miracle Theatre Group) Oral History Collection (OH 31), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

Creators

Jager, Michael Dean
Fernández, Natalia, 1985-

People, Places, and Topics

Arts, Latin American.
Hispanic American theater--Oregon--Portland.
Latin American drama--20th century.
Latin Americans--Oregon--Portland.
Miracle Theatre Group (Or.)
Oregon Multicultural Archives

Forms of Material

Born digital.
Oral histories (literary works)


Box and Folder Listing

Series 1: Interviews, 2015
Series 1 consists of seven interviews conducted in 2015.
Item 1: Bob Hicks, June 29, 2015
(00:23:35) Bob Hicks begins by introducing himself and talks about moving to Oregon, where he worked, and how he got involved with Milagro. He mentions the impact Milagro has had on the mainstream theater scene in Portland by being able to bypass translation and produce plays in their original language. He touches on the difference between mainstream plays and Milagro, focusing on the music and sound of language found in Milagro’s productions and the lack of filter between the audience and the play. Bob goes on to talk about one of  his favorite Milagro productions and how Milagro has shed light on alternative cultures in Portland, especially those of the Latino/Hispanic communities. He remarks on the way Milagro has shaped the neighborhood and community identity in Portland. He continues by talking about the effect Milagro has had on theatre, from humble beginnings to a professional theatre company. Bob then talks about Milagro’s role in people's lives and the essence of how Milagro can be both a professional theater company and a community theater. Bob comments on the future of Milagro and the company search for new artistic director. Toward the end of the interview, he talks about what Milagro means to him, saying that miracles ‘milagros’ come from determination and planning. Final words include talking about the arts world and the egos found in the arts world and how Milagro is unlike many because of its generosity. Interview video available online.
Item 2: Olga Sanchez, June 29, 2015
(00:18:19) Olga Sanchez introduces herself and some of the jobs she has had as a director, actor, educator, and writer. She continues by talking about some of the productions in which she has performed and the ones that stood out to her or challenged her most. She also mentions the ways in which she prepares for a performance. Olga shares a bit on which people working at Milagro have had a big impact on her. She shifts her focus to talking about the generosity of Milagro and what she considers to be a key to the success of Milagro.  She mentions how putting the work out there has led to a positive response from the community and a reciprocal generosity. She goes on to talk about the growth of the Latino/Hispanic community and the internal growth of Latino acting talent. Olga also touches on Milagro’s efforts to open itself more to the community. She shares some of her future plans and talks about the miracle of Milagro. In conclusion, she expresses her gratitude for Milagro and talks a bit about how Milagro feels like home. Interview video available online.
Item 3: Russell J. Young, June 29, 2015
(00:13:08) Russell J. Young begins the interview by introducing himself and speaking about how he became involved with Milagro. He explains that a personal project of his brought him to Portland where he met with Olga Sanchez and became affiliated with Milagro. Russell talks about his time as Milagro’s photographer and mentions some of the projects in which he has been involved. He goes on to talk about the Día de los Muertos book he created for the theatre. Russell shifts the discussion and recalls how both he and Milagro have grown over the years. According to him, working for Milagro has allowed him to see deeper into the world of theatre arts and allowed him to adapt what he has learned to his personal work. Moving on, Young talks about where he thinks Milagro is going and how much an impact the company has had on not only the community, but all of Portland and the arts world. He shares what he foresees for the future of both Milagro and himself. In conclusion, he speaks of the miracle of Milagro and shares some final words. Interview video available online.
Item 4: Eva Rotter-Johnson, June 30, 2015
(00:19:57) Eva Rotter-Johnson begins the interview by introducing herself as a performer. She talks about what led her to Milagro, from coming to the United States, to meeting her husband, and moving to Oregon. She mentions her passion for acting and how it played a role in her finding Milagro after she learned they were looking for Latino actors. Eva goes on to talk about her first job with Milagro and working on the props for some of the productions. She continues by talking about the home she found in Milagro, saying that she felt accepted and welcomed. Eva talks about some of the work she did outside of Milagro, working on commercials. She talks about her favorite play and how it impacted her life. She goes on to talk about her most memorable play and the people who have stood out to her while working for Milagro. Eva describes some of the changes Milagro has gone through, from community, to semi-professional, to professional and how Milagro has served the community of Portland. She remarks on the ways Milagro has helped actors spread their wings into the world of theater, especially Latino actors. She describes why she believes Milagro has been so successful and how it has grown to the caliber it holds today thanks to the fact that it has always been inviting to others. Eva talks about the future of Milagro and believes it will continue to grow. In concluding, Eva talks about the miracle of Milagro. Interview video available online.
Item 5: Sacha Reich, June 30, 2015
(00:25:21) Sacha Reich begins the interview by introducing herself and explains how she became associated with Milagro. She explains that her own theater company, which is in residency at Milagro, is embarking on its third season of producing work. Sacha says that Milagro has provided her theatre with a home and mentions that finding theater space in Portland is difficult. She goes on to talk about her time as a director for Milagro and doing other work with them. She continues by discussing the importance of relationships in theater arts and how much Milagro embraces those relationships. Sacha next discusses how Milagro works and how it is different from other companies. She talks in depth about the inclusion and collaborative work found in Milagro’s productions. She also talks about the way in which Milagro has trained its actors and built the community’s capacity to tell the stories they create. What is more, Sacha explains the difference Milagro has made and how its focus is not about getting more people to go watch their plays or increase the demographic of audience members, but to change the community. Sacha proceeds to talk about the miracle of Milagro, saying that it is a miracle that it has lasted over 20 years, especially in a town where it is hard for theatre arts to get funding. To conclude, Sacha explains what she considers to be the ethos of Milagro and what she has experienced during her time there. Interview video available online.
Item 6: Daniel Jáquez, August 25, 2015
(00:25:56) Daniel Jáquez grew up in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. He received his Bachelor of Science from the University of Texas and his Master of Fine Arts in directing from the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University. Since 2002, Daniel has worked as the Artistic Associate of Milagro. During this time, Daniel has directed several productions, including some of his original works. In 2001, he directed a production of Icarus for which he won a Drammy award. Daniel says that Milagro contributes to the diversity and internationality of its community in two ways. First, Milagro offers services and programs in Spanish, which creates a more inclusive community. Second, Milagro is such an inviting place for community, a place where all cultures can come to appreciate the work Milagro does. Daniel concludes with remarks about the generosity of Milagro; he is grateful for the human experiences and interactions that have enabled him to grow as an artist. Interview video available online.
Item 7: Carlos Alexis Cruz, 2015
(00:29:27) Carlos Alexis Cruz is a professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Charlotte, NC. There, he teaches physical theatre and acrobatics for actors. Currently, Carlos lives in Charlotte, though he found and later became involved with Milagro after wanted to give back to the community he came from. Carlos moved to Portland and collaborated on a number of productions, which he feels brought him closer to the community as an actor. In total, Carlos collaborated on at least thirteen productions during his time with Milagro. He worked primarily as an actor, but was able to use his background in physical theatre and acrobatics as well. Carlos also directed two productions during this time, including a production of Lazarillo de Tormes. Carlos feels that Milagro us much more than a theatre, rather it is a performing arts center, which he feels is a greater asset to the Latino community in Portland. Carlos believes that Milagro is a one of a kind institution with respect to diversity and internationality. More than a miracle, Carlos considers his time with Milagro to be a blessing. He says that Milagro’s own miracle though is its resiliency—to have established itself and persisted throughout the years, addressing issues and problems within the community and in our own society, which is the miracle. Midway through the interview, the interviewer asks the same questions and the answers are in Spanish. Interview audio available online.

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