Miracle Theatre Group Presents Conversation Series This May


In May, Miracle Theatre Group presents playwright Luis Alfaro’s Oedipus el Rey. The classic Greek play is re-set in modern L.A., where Oedipus’ rise to power happens within a gang “kingdom”, illuminating the prevalence of youth who enter gang life due to the perception that it is their unavoidable destiny. Focusing on the ruthlessness within a Chicano gang, Alfaro presents a realistic display of tragic self-fulfilling prophecy. This modern take on a classic will engage a fresh conversation about how we understand such youth and their families. Gang crimes have grown steadily in the Northwest and new strategies for intervention and prevention are currently tested in justice, education and social service agencies.

The Oregon Humanities conversation series, to be held at El Centro Milagro (525 SE Stark St., Portland), will follow each Sunday matinee performance. Miracle will host community leaders, social service professionals and scholars to provide an initial exploration of the topics; the discussions will then open up to audience questions and commentary. The three conversations will be free and open to the public; guests need not have attended the preceding matinee to participate in the Oregon Humanities conversations.

Sunday, May 6, 4:15 p.m.: Exploring Myth of Fate

In the culture and drama of ancient Greece, playwright Luis Alfaro found resonance for the modern cycle of gang involvement. He chose to work with Sophocles’ classic, Oedipus the King, as the foundation for his Oedipus el Rey (“Rey” in Spanish means “king”). What beliefs about fate did the Ancient Greeks hold as truth? What parallels did playwright Luis Alfaro draw between the Oedipus story and modern gang life? What can we learn from the history of the ancient Greeks?


Luis Alfaro, playwright  [invited]

Elizabeth Huffman, director

Dr. Richard Wattenberg, Professor of Theatre, Portland State University

Olga Sanchez, Artistic Director, Miracle MainStage (moderator) 

Sunday, May 13, 4:15 p.m.: The Lure of Gangs

In Oedipus el Rey, young men seek power within the only society in which they thrive. With power earned by violence and ruthlessness comes the respect and financial gain they cannot achieve elsewhere. Payment for this behavior includes imprisonment and alienation from mainstream society, but the attraction remains strong.

What “romantic” notions draw young people to gang life? What strategies keep youth from getting involved? Can these be further implemented by a larger community? 


Elena García Velasco, Portland’s Teacher of the Year, Spanish English International School/Roosevelt High School

Angel Ocasio, Officer, Portland Police Bureau

Dr. Carlos J. Crespo, Community Health & Public Affairs, Portland State University [invited]

Olga Sanchez, Artistic Director, Miracle MainStage (moderator)

Sunday, May 20, 4:15 p.m.: A Gangster’s Destiny

Laius, the king, passes down the legacy of gang culture to his son in Oedipus el Rey, further nurtured by the friends and family. There seems to be no support or guidance for seeking a lifestyle other than this one. Young people who have entered gangs often feel they must continue along this path until their death. How does gang life affect a young person’s perceptions of themselves and society? How do young people choose to leave gangs? What are the most recent schools of thought around intervention, which strives to provide other models of social engagement for former gang members?


Dr. Harold Briggs, Graduate School of Social Work, Portland State University [invited]

Ron Macias, Youth Gangs Outreach Specialist

Tori Lopez, Juvenile Court Counselor at Multnomah County Department of Community Justice

Olga Sanchez, Artistic Director, Miracle MainStage (moderator)


Luis Alfaro works in theatre, performance, poetry, short fiction, and journalism. A Chicano born and raised in downtown Los Angeles, Luis is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship and is the only playwright to have received two Kennedy Center Fund for New American Play awards in the same year. A former Resident Artist at the Mark Taper Forum for ten years, Luis served as Director of New Play Development. His plays and performances have been seen throughout the Americas and Europe and include Electricidad; Oedipus el Rey; Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner; Black Butterfly; No Holds Barrio; Bitter Homes & Gardens and Straight as a Line. He has taught throughout the country and is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California. He has an award-winning solo recording, down town, an Emmy for his short film, Chicanismo, and his first screenplay, From Prada to Nada, was produced and released by Lionsgate. Luis is currently working with the Magic Theatre in San Francisco, CA on the World Premiere of his new play, Bruja.

Elizabeth Huffman is thrilled to be directing for the first time with Miracle Theatre Group. Her most recent directing projects were King John for Northwest Classical Theatre Company, Oedipus the King and Trojan Women for Classic Greek Theatre of Oregon, and her next directing project is David Mamet's play November for the JANE Theatre Company, opening June 21, 2012 at Theatre/Theatre. Elizabeth will also be performing in her new one woman show: You Belong to Me by Steven Wolfson, as part of the 1 Festival on June 1 & 2, 2012 at Headwaters Theatre. For more information visit her website at www.elizabethhuffman.com.

Dr. Richard Wattenberg, is a professor of theatre history, literature and criticism at Portland State University. He has been a resident drama critic for The Oregonian since 1998 and averages 40 articles annually. He has been a member of the Drammy committee since 1995, the Portland Center for Performing Arts Advisory Committee since 2003, and was a panel member for the Regional Arts and Culture Council from 2002-2003. For PSU, he has several directing credits for PSU as well as a production of Velvet, Velour, and Burlap by Antonio Gonzalez Caballero for the Miracle Theatre in 1997, and over 10 productions for the Department of Theatre at University of California, Riverside before coming to PSU. At PSU, Wattenberg has also served on the Faculty Senate Steering Committee in 2003, the Graduate Council from 1999-2002, and the charter committee for the PSU University Studies program. He holds a Ph.D. in Theatre History from the University of Wisconsin.

Olga Sanchez, Artistic Director, Miracle MainStage, is a theatre graduate of Hunter College, CUNY, and holds an MA in Human Development, with a specialization in Bicultural Development. Olga has worked on a number of adaptations and original works including most recently Miracle’s Viva la Revolución and El Quijote, and she will oversee the production of Oedipus el Rey. Olga has worked as an artist-educator with Latino youth in Seattle and Portland, including the Milagro at SEIS program at Roosevelt High School. Sanchez is the project director for Oedipus el Rey: Gangs and the Myth of Fate.

Elena García-Velasco, the 2011-12 Oregon Teacher of the Year, is an educator with a deep commitment to helping all of her students achieve at high levels. Garcia-Velasco teaches at the Spanish English International School (SEIS) at Roosevelt High School, serving a highly diverse, high-poverty, highly mobile student population—a population traditionally underrepresented in advanced coursework, many of whom are recruited by gangs. García-Velasco will speak about her experiences working with students in gangs or on the verge of joining.

Angel Ocasio, a Portland Police Bureau officer, has served for 18 years in law enforcement and is one of only two police officers in the Portland Police force teaching children, youth and families through the GREAT (Gang Resistance Education And Training) program in schools, community centers and summer camps. Ocasio and his partner were the first in the nation to create the Spanish-language, culturally appropriate course materials for the GREAT curriculum. Ocasio will speak about this effective program and what works to keep youth from joining gangs.

Dr. Harold Briggs, a Sociology professor at Portland State University, is also a consultant with Multnomah County to implement its Community Health Initiative targeting high risk gang impacted youth and their families. His Model Development research includes the Family Neighborhood and Positive Youth Development and Gang Prevention Project. As an evidenced-based researcher, Dr. Briggs will provide an important perspective on best practices.

Ron Macias is a Youth Gangs Outreach Specialist. Originally from East LA and a third generation former gang member, Macias enlisted in the US Air Force and then dedicated his career to helping youth leave gang life in Los Angeles, Seattle, and since 1993 in Portland. He worked with the Portland Public School System as a Youth & Family advocate for gang members and their families, and as a case manager for the Oregon Youth Authority. Macias will speak to family dynamics that contribute to generational gang involvement.

Tori Lopez is a Juvenile Court Counselor at Multnomah County Department of Community Justice and has worked in Juvenile Justice since 1996. She has also served as the Juvenile Probation Officer at Linn County Juvenile Department. Her focus in working with gang affected youth is strength-based, and she works closely with community organizations such as Victory Outreach Community Services and Latino Network. Ms. Lopez will provide context for the growing gang presence in our community. 


With Chicano swagger and sly sense of humor, Luis Alfaro transports Sophocles’ tragedy to the mean streets of East L.A. Here Oedipus does hard time for ripping off a Costco, Jocasta splashes on the Jean Naté while glued to “All My Children” and the oracle takes cash only. But the word on the street is not good and the passion Oedipus has for one woman will violate our most sacRed Law.  This play, which is presented in English, includes strong language and mature content. Recommended for ages 16+


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