free theater

¡Felices Fiestas! con Milagro

Milagro Theatre pulls out the stops on Sunday for its 14th annual free holiday celebration

On Sunday, Milagro Theatre will celebrate one of the city’s most congenial holiday gatherings, its 14th annual Posada Milagro, an all-ages immersive experience of Latin American traditions for La Navidad.

Posada Milagro, a community celebration of the season. Milagro Theatre photo

The “Miracle Inn” portrays the journey or Pastorela of Mary and Joseph as they search for shelter and await the birth of baby Jesus. Posada Milagro will include two performances of the Pastorela, at 2 and 4 p.m. Sunday. Papalotl Ballet, Portland’s own multigenerational ballet folklorico de Mexico, will perform its whirling and toe-tapping repertoire of dance, backed by music from Cosecha Mestiza.

After each performance there’ll be a chance to take a swing at a piñata. Latinx Improv will entertain the crowd with their comic storytelling. The afternoon will include hands-on activites, too: adults and children have five handicrafts to choose from, including ornament-making.

Traditional tamales and hot chocolate will be available to buy from Tortillería y Tienda de Leon. Even better, you can bring a donation for the Oregon Food Bank and help support families in our community.

This year’s Posada will feature a photo booth, too. Put on your best or ugliest Christmas sweater to get the picture done right!

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Admission to Posada Milagro is free. However, the Pastorela is limited to ticket-holders only. Free tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first served basis at the theater beginning at 1 p.m. on the day of the event. For one day only, this family-friendly event is on Sunday, December 18th from 1 PM to 5 p.m. at El Centro Milagro, 537 S.E. Stark St., Portland.

First date with the family

At The Reading Parlor, things get messy when the cast meets "The Humans" for the first time. That's part of the fun.

It was a crowded and convivial setting for what Danielle Weathers, organizer of The Reading Parlor, likes to call a “first date with a play.” In a little side room of the Artists Repertory Theatre complex on Sunday night, seven music stands cozied up in a row. On each sat a thick stage script marked heavily with felt pen to denote each performer’s lines. Seven actors then walked in and sat in the seven chairs behind the seven music stands. They were gathering for the first time and getting their first look at this particular script, which on Sunday was for The Humans, Stephen Karam’s funny and quietly wrenching domestic drama that won this year’s best-play Tony and is still going strong in New York. Karam’s play takes place at a family Thanksgiving gathering in Lower Manhattan, and, well, you know how those things can go: familiarity, secrets, surprise.

Weathers and friends have been presenting these free monthly readings for about a year and a half now, moving from venue to venue as opportunity arises. The idea is to give Portland theater people and audiences a first glimpse at new or recent plays that may or may not eventually get full productions in town. (It’s hard to believe that someone won’t snap up The Humans as soon as it’s available.) And when she says “first date,” Weathers means it: The Reading Parlor catches the experience of putting together a production in those first, fragile, erratic, and beguiling moments, when you’re just getting the picture of the thing. “This is going to be messy,” she told the crowd before Sunday’s reading began, “and I encourage that.”

No, this is not the family in "The Humans." But things do get rowdy. Jan Steen, "The Merry Family," 1668, oil on canvas, 43.5 x 55.5 inches, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam / Wikimedia Commons.

No, this is not the family in “The Humans.” But things do get rowdy. Jan Steen, “The Merry Family,” 1668, oil on canvas, 43.5 x 55.5 inches, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam / Wikimedia Commons.

The Reading Parlor is one of several low-cost reading series in town (Readers Theatre Rep does monthly readings of short plays at Blackfish Gallery, and the grand old Portland Civic Theatre Guild has been doing monthly daytime coffee-and-readings for decades, most recently at Triangle Productions’ Sanctuary). It stands out not just because it’s free but also because it’s unrehearsed – about as close to impromptu experience as you can come.

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Stormy weather: a ‘Tempest’ erupts

Original Practice Shakespeare takes to the parks with a light squall of a 'Tempest' and 12 other plays performed in a heady improv style

Those no-good dirty scoundrels (now known as actors, but in Shakespeare’s time as players) would often steal word-for-word whole scenes of dialogue from a rival company’s show. Queen Elizabeth had no bureau for copyright affairs, so instead players were given their lines on little “roles,” or scrolls, soon before a play began. That meant no time for them to brush up their Shakespeare, little to no props, and being on their A-game. A player had to keep a good tongue in his head, or a battery of rotten produce and shouts would be hurled at him from the raucous audience. Each person in the cheaper seats spent about a penny a show – one whole day’s wages, so the play had to be good.

Since 2009, Portland’s Original Practice Shakespeare Festival has been staging the Bard in this traditional anarchic manner for free in parks throughout the city. This 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death has the team of actors bringing to life his celebrated words in 21 performances. Players are chosen shortly before the action begins, so each performance is unique and each interpretation of the role is unique. Original Practice Shakespeare wants you, the audience, to go back to “simpler times:” boo, laugh, mock, applaud. Take the attitude of Mr. Shakespeare’s words: “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” Throw out all the decorum that your blue-haired grandma worked so diligently to foster in you.

Wizarding in the park: Michael Streeter as in impromptu Caliban. Photo: Christa Morletti McIntyre

Wizarding in the park: Michael Streeter as in impromptu Caliban. Photo: Christa Morletti McIntyre

Sunday’s staging of Shakespeare’s late play the Tempest was held, in great complement to the troupe, at Cathedral Park. In OPS tradition a prompter aids the players, and for this performance the role was filled by Andrew Bray. The prompter follows the script (in the case someone loses their lines), sound effects personnel, and stage directions on the fly. Elizabethan theaters didn’t employ costume designers: instead, the players wore the most expensive (their pocket books could buy) fashions of the time. Original Practice Shakespeare adds to the informality by inviting the audience to participate with a kaleidoscope of costumes. This performance’s Prospero, played by Michael Streeter, wore a faux Kapa Hawaiian shirt and a student-of-Montessori preschool wizard hat, but the fashion disaster only added to elevating his deliveries. He’s a shipwrecked magician on some island, after all.

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