Milagro Hosts The Inquisition of Lazarillo

May 11
1:30 AM 2011

"The Inquisition of Lazarillo: Raising the Question" is a conversation series that will accompany this year's production Lazarillo. Lazarillo is based on an early Renaissance Spanish picaresque novella of a peasant boy who serves many masters as he modestly climbs the social and economic ladder. Dell'arte School of Physical Theatre actor and director CarlosAlexis Cruz adapts the classic work, Lazarillo de Tormes, re-locating it to the 1990s in New York City, in a hip-hop, circus, mask and movement-based interpretation. This liberal interpretation of the classic work has generated new questions for Miracle Theatre Group artists, centering on three specific themes:

• Wednesday, May 11 "Cloaking Dissent"
How do societal pressures influence a writer's freedom? How do artists edit themselves in order to reach or not offend a wide audience? How long does it take radical new ideas to become acceptable? What ideas are not being shared because artists or their agents don't think they'll be appealing?

Prof. Jesse Spohnholz, PhD, History Department, Washington State University (invited)
Prof. Richard Wattenberg, PhD, Theatre Department, Portland State University
Prof. Stephanie Arnold, PhD, Theatre Department, Lewis & Clark College

In Lazarillo one reads a sweeping critique of the society and institutions of 16th century Spain: the Church, the nobility, the family, the poor, and the emerging middle class. The novella, La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes y de sus fortunas y adversidades, was published anonymously due to an intolerance of dissent by a church in the thralls of the Spanish Inquisition. It is imagined that the writer was afraid of punishment or persecution from the religious orders that controlled much of the state. The writer's fears were validated when, upon publication in 1554, the book was banned by the Inquisition for several years, and then published in an edited version that omitted chapters critical of the Church. Although it was soon available in multiple languages throughout Europe, it was not published in its complete form in Spain until the 19th century. This has raised questions about artistic self-censorship for protection.

• Wednesday, May 18 "The Livelihoods of Lazarillo"
What are the contemporary factors that affect a person's socio-economic mobility? How do education, upbringing, wealth, etc., create real and perceived barriers that hinder an individual's rise to success? What are some of the unspoken rules that define class and therefore advancement in our society? Which of these rules can be learned?

Prof. José Padin, PhD, Sociology, Portland State University
Prof. Ivette Rivera-Giusti, Chicano Studies, Portland State University
Gail Castillo, President, Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce

Lazarillo's story of socio-economic ascension highlights the connections between work and identity. In the 16th century, strong class lines delineated society. A cleric is of a certain class and to be treated with the deference due a man of the cloth while a beggar is to be spat upon and thrown a few meager coins. How do these rules manifest in modern society? Upward mobility was very restricted in Lazarillo's time, however, it is one of the key principles behind the American Dream. Yet even espousing meritocracy, how does education, upbringing, wealth, etc., create real and perceived barriers that hinder an individual's rise to success?

• Wednesday, May 25 "The Trials of Adaptation"
Why and how do we adapt classic literature for modern audiences? How does an adaptation of a classic work, whether into another form or another context, reveal its relevant themes in ways that the original form cannot? What current media standards and audience expectations make adaptations of classic works necessary? What are the traps of creating adaptations?

CarlosAlexis Cruz, director and adaptor, Lazarillo; Artistic Director, Pelú Theatre
Nancy Aldrich, Artistic Director, Tears of Joy Theatre
Prof. DeLys Ostlund, PhD, Spanish Department, Portland State University

The original novella provokes questions about class and identity that remain relevant across centuries and cultures. The work is highly theatrical, with exaggerated characters, crime and violence. When the creative team at Miracle began to envision the production of Lazarillo, they realized the most relevant representation would be one in which the work was adapted to a contemporary setting. It was determined that New York City during 1980s-90s would best suit the needs of this adaptation.

Sold to a blind beggar as a child and then passed from one master to another - each more cruel and incompetent than the previous - young Lazarillo must pilfer and deceive to survive, and is usually punished for his pains. But like his literary successors Pinocchio or Huck Finn, the endearing Lazarillo learns to fake miracles and mouse infestations, to expose hucksters and the absurdities of the establishment, all in an attempt to elevate his position in society. Based on the first picaresque novel once banned by the Inquisition, this modern interpretation set in the Bronx of the 1980s integrates hip-hop, circus and comedia dell'arte traditions to create a vibrant evening of physical theatre suitable for audiences age 5 and older. Bilingual.

CarlosAlexis Cruz ... Lazarillo
Andrew Phoenix ... Ensemble
Kate Braidwood ... Ensemble
Matthew Kerrigan ... Acrobat
Sy Parrish ... Acrobat
Jeff Holt ... Musician
Kris White ... Musician
Travis McAlister ... Musician

CarlosAlexis Cruz ... Writer/Director
José E. González ... Scenic Designer
Kate Braidwood ... Mask Designer
Valerie Ditchfield ... Costume Designer
Leslie Smith ... Lighting Designer
Gabriela Portuguez ... Choreographer
Alodie Lopez ... Prop Master
José Gutierrez ... Spoken Word Consultant
Gavin Hales ... Stage Manager
Andrew Phoenix ... Master Carpenter
Hampton Rodriguez ... Artcard Artist
Sylvia Malán, Sarah Hinds and Daniel Moreno ... House Managers
Estela Robinson ... Production Associate
Olga Sanchez ... Artistic Director, Miracle MainStage
José E. González ... Executive Director

La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes y de sus fortunas y adversidades was a pioneering book in many ways, and not just because it was published in 1554, barely 100 years after the printing press was invented. At a time when heroes and leaders were always portrayed as wealthy, refined noblemen, Lazarillo was the first picaresque novel (picaresco) - one that revolved around a poor man, a charming rogue (pícaro) whose antics revealed the hypocrisies and flaws of Spain's most powerful people. Lazarillo was a servant (as well as a scoundrel and thief) who moved through a succession of masters, each more powerful and wealthy - and corrupt - than the last. The book was realistic in its depiction of lower-class life and used common, everyday language - shocking innovations in that era. Lazarillo was also centuries ahead of its time in sympathetically portraying an interracial marriage and step-family.

Over the centuries, Lazarillo has inspired a wide range of anti-hero novels from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and On The Road, to Don Quixote, Candide, The Adventures of Auggie March, The Tin Drum, and The Tropic of Cancer. One precursor and likely influence was the German trickster Till Eulenspiegel, a subject of many folkloric tales first published in book form by Hermann Bote in 1510. Eulenspiegel was the original "Merry Prankster," a simple peasant who played cruel practical jokes on his superiors and often misunderstood figurative language by taking it too literally.

This conversation series was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH's grant program.

Miracle Theatre Group's production of Lazarillo is sponsored by National Endowment for the Arts, The Boeing Company and Urban Robotics.

Miracle Theatre Group's 2010-2011 season is funded in part by Meyer Memorial Trust, Oregon Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, Regional Arts & Culture Council and Work for Art, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Kinsman Foundation, Collins Foundation, James F. & Marion L. Miller Foundation, Juan Young Trust, Shubert Foundation, Jose Mendoza and Hugh Mackworth, Oregon Cultural Trust, El Hispanic News and El Centinela.

The restaurant sponsor for the opening night of this production is La Bonita/Mayahuel Catering.

The Miracle Theatre Group has been dedicated to bringing the vibrancy of Latino theatre to the Northwest community and beyond for more than 25 years. In addition to its national tours, Miracle provides a home for Spanish and Latin American arts and culture at El Centro Milagro, where it enriches the local community with a variety of community outreach projects and educational programs designed to share the diversity of Latino culture. For more information about the Miracle Theatre Group, visit or call 503-236-7253.

WHAT: The Inquisition of Lazarillo: Raising the Question
A conversation series on dissent, social climbing and adaptation, inspired by Miracle Theatre Group's production of Lazarillo and moderated by Olga Sanchez, Artistic Director, Miracle MainStage

WHEN: 6 p.m., Wednesdays, May 11, 18, 25, 2011

WHERE: Milagro Theatre, 525 SE Stark Street, Portland, Oregon 97214

ADMISSION: Free, no advance reservations necessary


MORE INFORMATION: 503-236-7253 or

This program was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH's grant program.

Miracle Theatre Group's production of Lazarillo is sponsored by National Endowment for the Arts, The Boeing Company and Urban Robotics.


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