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October 24, 2015 05:00 PM

Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland consistently delivers up ancient texts in modern, fresh ways. Their Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, is no exception, delighting – and ultimately transcending – with an interpretation as fresh and relevant as anything on the contemporary stage.

First, the design: Oh, Ashland, how you court us with your twinkly parks and mellow deer, your dappled maples and dulcet rolling hills. This backdrop is a lulling, bewitching backdrop, and Scott Bradley’s gorgeous net of roses kisses the audience’s imagination from the get-go. But there’s a foreshadowing here, as a character, hooded, is wheeled onstage, the last moments of the play’s doubt laid bare, before a word is uttered.

That’s the trick here, the weight that Blain-Cruz discovers, even in between these funny, ribald lines. This is comedy, against the backdrop of war – Like “South Pacific” – the mood is elevated as soldiers return for leave, make connections, break hearts – But will they live to see their loves again?

 Beatrice is spot-on, played with powerful humor and great spirit by Chistiana Clark. Benedick – Beatrice emphasizes the ‘dick’ when they first meet – is also perfect, exuding a devil-may-care charm, coupled with an adorable insecurity. The chemistry between these two is palpable, and bless ‘em, even though these workhorses have performed the show umpteen times this season, their interplay felt vibrant and alive.

The entire cast shines here, knowing full well where they are and where they’re going – in agreement with the story they are telling.

 Cristofer Jean as Don Pedro, and Regan Linton, as his illegitimate sister Don John, are particularly strong.

Jean is also a central figure in Stan Lai’s “Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land”, a very different tale, but equally well told.

I love a good play-with-a-play Pirandello-mix up, and “Secret Love” provides plenty of schtick within its form: (Two plays are booked in the same theater for rehearsal on the same night, challenges ensue.)

There’s a winning formula throughout OSF, a cozy rapport with the audience, in these shows that let their guard down a bit. The actors allow themselves to bounce off the audience, to reveal themselves, which is what it’s like to visit this small town: You might be walking down the street, and see Skye Masterson getting in his car, or Don Pedro himself, breezing by the bookstore. It’s exciting, and also very human, the way theater should be. 

October 23, 2015 04:22 PM

Call them crawdads, call them crayfish but whatever you call them, ringed crayfish are native to the central plains and Ozarks, not Oregon, and a recent discovery  of the invasive crayfish in Lane County's Row River new Cottage Grove is troubling biologists according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

Non-native Ringed crayfish were recently discovered in the Willamette River drainage. Photo by ODFW.

The crayfish outcompete our native signal crayfish and ODFW thinks their presence is the result of an illegally released pet or crayfish used as bait by anglers.

Ringed crayfish are one of three species of crayfish that compete with signal crayfish for food, shelter and space. 

A full press release from ODW is below this helpful video discussing the differences between ringed and signal crayfish.

 

 

Discovery of invasive crayfish in the Willamette River drainage concerns biologists

SALEM, Ore – Ringed crayfish have successfully invaded many rivers and streams in southern Oregon, but were just found in Lane County’s Row River. This is the first discovery of this species in the Willamette River drainage.

“To find Ringed crayfish in the upper end of the Willamette Basin is very alarming to us,” said Jeff Ziller, South Willamette Watershed District Fish Biologist. “Ringed crayfish have been found to outcompete our native Signal crayfish  for habitat and food. The non-native ringed crayfish dominate the crayfish populations in the Rogue, Chetco and Umpqua rivers, so this is bad news for Signal crayfish here in the Willamette system.

While on a recreational dive in late September, a U.S. Forest Service employee discovered two Ringed crayfish below the falls at Wildwood Falls Park on the Row River. With assistance from the USFS, the Coast Fork Watershed Council, and student volunteers, ODFW biologists conducted a presence/absence survey by placing numerous crayfish traps below and above the initial discovery site and some tributaries of the Row River down into Dorena Reservoir.

Adult Ringed crayfish were found below the falls between the park and reservoir. Only native Signal crayfish were found in the Row River below Dorena Dam and in sampled tributaries including Mosby, Brice and Sharps creeks.

Rick Boatner’s experience with these invasive crayfish tells him they were possibly used by anglers as bait or were illegally released into the wild by someone who had them as a pet. Boatner is ODFW’s invasive species coordinator and said it’s illegal to use live, non-native crayfish as bait except in the waterbody in which they were taken. It is also illegal to release non-native crayfish into the wild.

Boatner asks people to report any findings of Ringed crayfish or other non-native crayfish to ODFW and to not return them to the waterway. To report sightings of invasive species, call 1-866-INVADER or report it online at http://oregoninvasiveshotline.org or call ODFW at 503-947-6308.

Native Signal crayfish have smooth claws with a white “signal” spot on claw pivot and a wide body plate on the back. Learn more about crayfish here.

 

 

 

 

 

October 22, 2015 08:14 PM

Photo by Todd Cooper / jasontoddcooper.com

Review by Bryan Kalbrosky • Photography by Todd Cooper

Father John Misty makes more sense in Los Angeles. The splattering of ego in the crowd, the expensive male perfume and the perfectly trimmed beards properly contextualizes the former L.A. native.

I’m unapologetically fascinated by Father John Misty, the moniker Joshua Tillman settled on after his unexpectedly successful career as an indie-rock drummer with Fleet Foxes as well as his commercially unsuccessful solo career as J. Tillman.

Originally from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Tillman has lived in New York (briefly during college), Seattle (when he was in Fleet Foxes), Los Angeles (where his career was launched as Father John Misty) and now New Orleans.

But something reportedly “clicked” when he lived in Los Angeles. “That’s when he broke through into his own personal, artistic algorithm of expression,” producer Jonathan Wilson tells Grantland. “[He was] just genuinely excited to be in the mix of Hollywood.”

Listen to the first track on his first album as Father John Misty, “Fun Times in Babylon” — Tillman croons about his new home: “Look out, Hollywood, here I come.”

Flash-forward — his prediction was right on. Tillman has performed as Father John Misty on Letterman, Seth Meyers and (most recently) Jimmy Kimmel. He’s sparked headlines like the following, in Paste Magazine: “Father John Misty is the Best Kind of Asshole.”

Performing in Los Angeles, that’s exactly how it felt. He asked the crowd what they thought of his new jacket, which has become an iconic center to his signature look. He performs in front of a beautifully illuminated light fixture that reads “No Photography” even though he jumps around on top of drum sets, gyrating across the stage, basically begging the crowd to document his incredible dance moves.

Photo by Todd Cooper / jasontoddcooper.com Photo by Todd Cooper / jasontoddcooper.com

He grabbed a cell phone from a girl in the front row and took a video of the crowd with it. And he didn’t give her phone back for an entire song.

Here, then, is a musician largely confused by his own fame. Check his silly, sarcastic “Over/Under” video on Pitchfork with his wife, Emma, for a taste. Listen to his most recent album I Love You, Honeybear (2015) for more of his tongue-in-cheek (but still genuine, sometimes!) attempt at writing an album about falling in love with previously mentioned wife.

Just don’t judge Father John Misty (or rather don’t judge him too much) for his more absurd moments. For example, he recently released two covers of Ryan Adams’ cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 (2015) album — all in the style of Lou Reed from the Velvet Underground.

Then he took the tracks down because Reed came to him in a dream (which read more like an intense, expansive acid trip) stating: “Delete those tracks, don't summon the dead, I am not your plaything.”

Don’t worry. Tillman later explained that he was trolling all of us with unpublishable gibberish that (of course) basically every indie-rock publication published anyway.

The experience of watching Father John Misty perform is not similar to the experience of listening to him on his vinyl, as I often have. It’s not quite as vulnerable as sitting alone in your room when the record spins, but maaaaaan, it’s so much more public.

I felt weird knowing people were watching me dance alone to the Father John Misty tunes, until suddenly I did not. I even bought his custom twill five-panel hat, and I rock it. Like the best kind of asshole. 

Photo by Todd Cooper / jasontoddcooper.com Photo by Todd Cooper / jasontoddcooper.com Photo by Todd Cooper / jasontoddcooper.com Photo by Todd Cooper / jasontoddcooper.com Photo by Todd Cooper / jasontoddcooper.com    

October 21, 2015 09:19 AM

The Jayanthi Raman Company performed for a small but appreciative audience Saturday night, October 3. The performance featured choreography, design, costumes and lighting design by Raman, to varying effect.

         The strongest piece, Swagatham Krishna, choreographed and danced by Raman, explored classical and folk elements as it told the story of Lord Krishna, in the three ages of his life. The piece was gentle and lilting, evocatively communicative, and Raman’s exposition before the piece provided a helpful narrative guide, allowing greater accessibility into what is for many in the audience, likely an unfamiliar tale.

         Overall, the program could have benefited from a simple handheld program, with a bit of background information, the names of the dances and the dancers themselves. Without such written word, audience members were left scratching their heads a bit. (When I inquired about a program, I was told I could by Raman’s textbook on classical Indian dance, for upwards of $30…)

         Dancers Shradha Vinod, Soujanya Madhusudan, Sweta Ravishankar, Mugdha Vichare and Ramya Raman were all excellent, each demonstrating a strong technique and performance quality.

         Tillana, choreographed by Guru Adyar Lakshman performed by Jayanthi Raman Company dancers led by Raman, spoke to the dancers’ abilities. Colorful costumes enlivened the experience.

         Lighting added emotional resonance, but was in constant struggle with the projections of slides behind the dancers, which alternated between the same celestial image, translations of Vedic texts, and symbolic images from nature, such as a peacock. If Raman is going to incorporate visual elements such as these, as backdrops for her work, they need to be more finely tuned to the pieces themselves, or they threaten to take away from, rather than enhancing the experience.

         Raman is the recipient of numerous grants, including an Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist Grant, and has received support from the Oregon Cultural Trust and the National Dance Project.

         Though Raman successfully articulates, in her marketing and in development, the need for more light to shine on this underrepresented art form, the company’s somewhat stilted presentational style could benefit from more polish in order to become more universally resonant. 

October 20, 2015 04:01 PM

Val Hoyle announced her politial intentions in a video this week.

October 16, 2015 02:14 PM

Sometimes talking about beaver can be awkward. Especially when it involves puppets. 

Oregon State is crowdsourcing the beaver genome project, donate and support a dam good cause.

 

October 16, 2015 01:36 PM

The anti-LNG groups that recently brought you a paper maché Gov. Kate Brown are heading to Salem to protest liquified natural gas pipeline and export projects slated for Oregon's lands and waters. Press release is below.

Photo credit: Rising Tide

Raging Grannies & Youth to Hold Intergenerational Protest Against LNG at Capitol

On Monday, October 19 at 10:30am, an intergenerational group of grandmothers and youth will hold a protest at the Oregon State Capitol building in Salem. The protest will call on Governor Brown to oppose Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) pipelines and export projects.

Scores of concerned Oregonians from around the state are expected to join the crowd, including activists and from the Raging Grannies of Oregon, 350.org Eugene, Southern Oregon Rising Tide and Cascadia Forest Defenders. They will use spectacle, theater, song and a rally in an appeal to Kate Brown, asking her to use her powers as Governor to oppose the Pacific Connector Pipeline as Governor Kulongowski did in 2010.

The event follows Portland Rising Tide’s 10/14 demonstration in Portland, when a papier mache Kate Brown delivered a notice of eviction to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission offices (story here) and Southern Oregon Rising Tide’s interruption of Congressmen Wyden and Merkley’s 10/14 appearance in Medford (story here).

Uniting across generations, the Monday protest will emphasize the breadth and diversity of those urging Governor Brown to take action against the LNG pipeline. It will also highlight the intergenerational threat the LNG export project would pose as the largest emitter of climate pollution in the state, as well as the national consequences of expanding fracked gas infrastructure.

October 16, 2015 06:03 AM

How can one possibly review a great artist like Twyla Tharp? Her work spans fifty years – this is the 50th anniversary of her dance company – which deserves its own accolades in the arts-funding parched USA. 50 years of collaborations, discipline, technique, of musical explorations, theatrical endeavors, of making her mark, of being herself, of being a woman in a male-dominated field, and a strong, focused and no-nonsense woman at that. She’s a role model for creativity and the shrewd confidence needed to sustain growth over time and space. She is one of a kind.

            Tharp’s presentation at the Arlene Schnitzer Performance Hall, produced by Portland’s Whitebird Dance, spanned a juicy aesthetic arc, from the past to now.

            The show opened with “First Fanfare” with music by John Zorn. Taught and provocative, the piece explored time and shape with Tharp’s blend of highly-articulated and uncompromising technique, and the toss-away vernacular that looks deceptively easy, but is likely one of the hardest aspects of her choreography to master.

            “Yowzie” was a fan favorite, with vibrant costumes by Santo Loquasto. Tharp’s movement style - her uncanny juxtaposition between the reverent ballet and classically modern work her dancers are all capable, and the bouncy, multi-layered percolating juggernaut – were delectably redolent in this piece.

            Tharp’s company is remarkable, spanning ages and sizes, shorter/taller, younger/older - a bundle of personalities and uniformly delightful stage presences. John Selya is especially compelling – and hilarious in “Yowzie!”, as is Rika Okamoto, whose slight physique cannot possibly contain her seemingly boundless exuberance, and pitch-perfect sense of humor.

            Tharp’s “Preludes and Fugues”, set to J.S.Bach, featured delicious duets and trios that flitted in and out of range, reacting and catalyzing the piece, as if dancers were bubbling over with new ideas as they discovered them. Here, Tharp’s penchant for pushing into the vertical space, without any wasted or romantic effort, her artistic facility over gesture and emotion - which she always holds a the reigns on -was apparent. And her musicality! Oh, to create in the pockets between the notes, in the spaces between the beats… To make dance that not only shows the audience more of the music, but does so by allowing the dance to tug at it sometimes, to serve as counterpoint, the way nature will sometimes grow at an angle away from itself, and in so doing, finds the real beauty.

            When “Preludes and Fugues” came together, the entire company in a circle, moving in unison with the slightest lift of the leg, the arm, the chin, my soul was restored. There is not a whiff of mediocrity here, of extraneous noodlings or space fillers.  There’s a purity of intention, a powerful statement of humanity, and it had to be arrived at through the multitude of little moments it took to get there.

            In that moment, as in so many more, Tharp reminded me why I love dance.

            A Q&A followed, with Tharp, along with the suggestion of the possibility of her return in 2016, which was met with wild enthusiasm from the audience. If the company returns, I’ll make the trip up I-5 for sure. 

October 13, 2015 03:47 PM

This unusual press release came in Oct. 8 in support of Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin, and we can't help but wonder if it's in response to the criticism Hanlin has received in Oregon and nationwide for his strident anti-gun-safety positions. But of course that issue is not even mentioned in the press release. Find the full letter with signatures at http://www.flashalertnewswire.net/images/news/2015-10/1230/88539/Hanlin_...

The Oregon State Sheriffs' Association (OSSA) supports Sheriff John Hanlin, his deputies and the entire community of Douglas County during this very difficult time. However, most importantly we support the victims of this tragic event.

The mission of OSSA is to support the Office of Sheriff in Oregon and to bring resources together in a time of need. In response to the incident at Umpqua Community College, Sheriffs from around the state pulled together to provide assistance, offers of resources and personnel from the inception of the incident and throughout the investigation.

We understand there is a great demand for immediate answers and change, but rushing an investigation or making snap judgments does a great disservice to the victims, their families, and the community as a whole. Members of the Roseburg Police Department, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Douglas County Fire agencies and many other supporting law enforcement agencies were the first responders on a very gruesome and horrific scene. Dedicated deputies, police officers and medical personnel have handled the situation with the utmost professionalism in the face of complete heartache. Sheriff Hanlin and the investigative team have made decisions based upon facts from the scene and with the advice of the many committed public safety partners that are assisting in the investigation.

We would like the victims' families to know that we share in your grief. May God bless and comfort each one of you.
Contact Info:
John Bishop
Oregon State Sheriffs' Association
330 Hood St. NE
Salem, Oregon 97301
(503) 364-4204

October 12, 2015 06:04 AM

Ballet Fantastique presented its season opener, Cirque de la Lune, in the Hult’s Soreng theater October 9-11. The closing show performed to a full, mostly rapt house.

            Tracing the experience of an innocent young gal, who joins a travelling depression-era circus, Cirque de la Lune played with color and light, weaving its narrative with stellar live accompaniment by Mood Area 52, Betty and the Boy and Troupe Carnivale.

            BFan’s collaborative spirit, and their insistence on live music always enriches the experience. The live music for Cirque was evocative and moody, carrying the shifts in emotional dynamic.

            Costumes and headpieces, too, by Jonna Hayden, Etain Wilday, Donna Marisa Bontrager and Mitra Chester were first rate. Clown-like in their vibrancy, they added a pop of brightness, perhaps suggesting the exotic allure of a circus to small-town America.

            The male dancers are consistent: Martino Sauter, Anthony Rosario stand out for their technique. Rosario is especially strong, dancing with his whole body, every moment he’s onstage. Jim Ballard may not have their ballet training, but he’s a terrific actor, bringing warmth and character to his role. And International Circus Artist Raymond Silos stole many moments with his gravity-defying trapeze, hoop and silks work.

            Among the women, technique is more variable. The dancers have a lot of heart, but for some, energy seems to drain out of their hands and feet, especially during any challenging petite allegro footwork. Timing is also an issue, as so much of the work demands precision in its unison, and a couple of the dancers are often at least one beat behind the others.

            Of the women, Hannah Bontrager has the strongest technique and the greatest stage presence. She is lovely onstage, emoting gracefully and delivering work that’s refined and passionate. But casting herself in a work she’s co-choreographing with Donna Marisa Bontrager may keep her from seeing the places where the corps work just needs more polish.

            Choreographically, Bfan feels comfortable. It’s easy to watch. But the accumulative effect, over the course of the full work, may be that we haven’t journeyed that far together.

            Multiple duets feel similar to one another, often at the same tempo, exploring relationships that seem almost like the partnering one would see in ballroom dance, rather than classical ballet. There aren’t a lot of ballet ‘tricks’ here –the pirouettes, the tour en l’airs, and the intricate movement across the floor or into the vertical space - that we love about ballet. It’s lovely. But it feels somehow safe.

            Unlike many BFan shows, this one did not have a narrator.

            Ballet is often meant to tell a story – it doesn’t have to, of course, in fact many dance-makers choose thoughtfully crafted exploration of line, shape and tempo over a plot - But relying on a narrator to thrust the plot forward seems incongruous somehow with the art form, that, in its elevation is ideally supposed to communicate volumes through movement and gesture only. 

            That said, without the program synopsis, this ballet would be challenging to follow. Easy on the eyes and enjoyable, but in terms of story perhaps a little thin. 

October 12, 2015 02:28 PM

This Sunday Falling Sky Brew Pub hosted their 2nd annual Worlds Shortest Bike Race. With about 150 in attendance racers took on a 13.05 foot course in heats of 4 with the goal of being either the fastest or slowest to complete the course. Here are some photos from the races. Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

October 12, 2015 03:37 PM

Willamette Riverkeeper has posted a video of photos submitted by volunteers at the annual Willamette Clean Up Oct. 3. About 800 people participated, half from around Lane County.

October 11, 2015 05:30 AM

The first-annual Northwest Screen Dance Exposition leapt onto the screen at the Bijou Cinemas Tuesday night (10/6), with a collection of short works that highlighted the burgeoning relationship between dance and film.

            Organized by producers John Watson and Dorene Carroll, the effort was sponsored by the UO and LCC Dance Programs, and served as a benefit for Danceability International.

            Dance and film have a long, intertwined history. A1896 film of Loïe Fuller’s Serpentine Danceby the pioneering film-makers Auguste and Louis Lumière, is a perfect example of that early marriage between dance – the most ancient, and most elusive of art forms – and film, a medium that artists are still experimenting with, more than a century later.

            “Working’ It” by writer/director Brad Burke was a crowd-pleaser. More like a short movie about a dancer, than a new dance work , the piece was nonetheless humorous and engaging. A great opener.

            Other standouts included choreographer/director and editor Shannon Mockli’s “Fluctuating Frequencies” - a tight, well-plotted, site-specific, interestingly choreographed, well-lighted piece - that placed dancers in an urban landscape, creating an effect of armature, with their spare, almost insect-like interconnected movement.

            Sarah Nemecek’s “In Here, Out There” explored local geography, contrasting artfully simple movement patterns in a variety of natural settings – the muddy beach, the forest floor, and a meadow, to strong effect.

            Other pieces had moments of arresting quality that I wanted to see more of: Mary Fitzgerald and Brad Garner’s “Nearby Far” featured one moment, when Garner tumbles down a sand dune, that was exquisite. Cinematographer Dmitri Von Klein captured the fluidity of the sand’s reflection, and the refreshingly human fall.

            In “Late Afternoon Sunshine”, filmmaker Antonio Anacan featured footage of choreographer and dancer Suzanne Haag’s feet. Haag is a ballet dancer, and here are these feet, the size of action heroes. I could have watched a piece that was only close-ups on feet –  with all the nuanced, varied and amazing things that a dancers foot can articulate. (And if s/he’s doing them well, we’ll likely lot notice.) 

            Likewise, choreographer Barbara Canal, Director Michele Manzini and Director of Photography Luciano Perbellini and Editor Valeria Lo Meo’s “Snags in Palladio” offered unusual settings (filming in Italy helps) and piquant relationship inquiries, like a chilling duet with one dancer facing away from the camera, her long hair obscuring her back, with the arm of another dancer reaching around her. Gives me willies just thinking about it. Evocative and moody. I liked it.

            This “screen dance” form asks a lot of the artist(s). In order to work, start to finish, a piece has to have stellar choreography, be well-lit and well-filmed, it has to have a sound component that enhances the experience, and then, probably most important, it has to be well-edited. In writing, we’d call it “killing our darlings” – the painful ritual of cutting extraneous words. (If it doesn’t develop the overall effect, it’s outta there. )

            Editing in dance is powerful. And it seems even more essential in this hybrid dance/film platform than it does three dimensional, live performance.

            As dance pioneer Doris Humphrey famously said, “Alldances are too long. Monotony is fatal; contrasts should be used.”

            All the pieces selected for this year’s Expo had merit. Each had a unique something to share, and moments of real clarity and interest.

            ButHumphrey’s advice may apply to the works that tended to pool into repetitive eddies, either with movement that lacked dynamic structure, or film techniques that started fresh, but became a little gimmicky.

            Perhaps these works may have benefitted from greater exploration of possibilities in speed, shape and relationships. 

October 11, 2015 05:38 AM

Teatro Milagro’s national touring production of ‘Searching for Aztlán’, written & directed by Lakin Valdez, (son of Luis Valdez), was a rare treat.

         Presented by Lane Arts Council, he performance took place Friday, Oct 9th at Oregon Contemporary Theatre to a sold-out (and enthusiastic) house.

         The bilingual play, Searching for Aztlán, begins in 2012 with the Tucson school board’s acceptance of HB 2281, shutting down Mexican American Studies and removing its books from classrooms. A giant dust storm, or “haboob,” strikes the city and leaves Dolores Huelga (played with aplomb by Monica Domena), a teacher, unemployed and in an alternate reality. Lost in the desert, Dolores sets out on a quest for the mythical city of Aztlán.

         The play brilliantly interweaves Huelga’s story with the familiar ‘Wizard of Oz’, as subtle musical cues and clever narrative structure help us to find the road map that Huelga’s not in Arizona anymore…

         In her search for the mythic land, Huelga encounters updated versions of Dorothy’s friends. The scarecrow is an illegal immigrant (Giovanni Alva). The tin man is a woman who’s of Mexican-American origin, but who doesn’t speak Spanish, and whose family has completely negated their own cultural past (Shenekah Telles). The cowardly lion is a militant Chicano organizer who’s been piddling around Aztlán since the 1970’s (Ajai Terrazas-Tripathi). Together, this motley crew set off on a journey towards self-discovery and societal change.

         The cast is remarkable. With not much more than a hand-painted backdrop and a few costume changes, they create a variety of settings and moods. From the State Board of Education, where Huelga attempts to defend the purpose of teaching Mexican American history and literature to predominantly Mexican American students, to the borderlands between the US and Mexico, to the mythical land itself, each step is populated by fully-developed and relatable characters.

         As playwrights, the group employs humor, an ease and comfort with the material that makes their work human and accessible. And seeing a show that slipped, so effortlessly, between Spanish and English, was a remarkable experience. I understand a little Spanish, my date – my 13-yr-old daughter – not a word. Yet she comprehended the entire show, and loved it.

         On the way home, she asked me to let her know the next time something that Teatro Milagro would be in town.

         “Because I’m into activism and education, mom,” she said.

         I hope that the group would consider a return trip soon.