Three roads to Aztlán: the creative team

Three roads to Aztlán: the creative team

While we’re busy getting ready to put on two great holiday events, Posada Milagro (Dec. 14) and our Santas y Santas holiday dance party (Dec. 20), the Milagro Tour crew are focusing their irreverently artistic talents on an important story about current events and the deeper meaning of the history involved: Searching for Aztlán.

The title itself bears exploration, as it refers simultaneously to something physical, mythical and political. And the tutelary beings of this artistic journey, coming to Milagro Theatre Jan. 8-17, are three creative forces who represent some of the most vibrant and significant players in the history of Chicano theatre, reaching back 50 years to the roots of Chicanismo itself.

Lakin Valdez conducting rehearsals
for Corrido Calavera

Writing the script and directing the actors will be Lakin Valdez, whose previous collaboration with Milagro resulted in the raucous 2013 Día de los Muertos show, Corrido Calavera. In addition to a talented and critically-acclaimed theatre artist, Lakin has a direct connection to the earliest day of the Chicano movement as the son of the multifaceted artist, Luis Valdez. The elder Valdez was an integral part of Cesar Chavez’s organizing efforts in 1965 at the height of the Delano farm workers’ strike by presenting itinerant “actos” or skits to educate and unify. A bastion of Latino theatre in the US, his company is now known as El Teatro Campesino and has been recognized both for its legacy and for its artistic excellence. It is in this political and cultural cradle that Lakin Valdez was nurtured before becoming known as a director, writer, and performing artist in his own right, receiving two NPN Creation Fund Awards, a Zellerbach Award and NEA Access to Excellence Award for his generative work.

Alida Holguín Wilson Gunn (R),
with Ajai Terrazas-Tripathi in Cuéntame Coyote

Starring in the lead role of Dolores, an Arizona teacher facing the state’s controversial changes, will be Alida Holguín Wilson Gunn, who joined Milagro as Associate Artistic Director, to work with the touring productions only a year ago. Distinguished as a performer, the local paper Willamette Week said in its review of Cuéntame Coyote that she “has a passion that is mesmerizing,” and in 2006 she was nominated for the Best Actress Mac Award by the Arizona Daily Star. Gunn joined Milagro after more than a decade of working with another beacon of cultural expression and understanding: Borderlands Theater. Eventually becoming Director of Education and Outreach Programs, she describes some of her contributions as helping to “share realities”, bridging gaps in Borderlands’ generational segments, reaching their rural constituency and creating youth programming. 

Founding Director Dañel Malán (L),
with Tricia Castañeda-Gonzales from Frida: Un retablo

As the brains (and for many years, brawn) of Milagro’s educational and touring efforts, Founding Director Director Dañel Malán is responsible for bringing the creative team together, something she has been doing since the earliest days of Milagro, with its first touring production, Perez y Martina in 1989. Malán’s career reveals a dedication to keeping alive the spirit of those “actos” performed on a truck bed for an audience who, nearly half a century after Delano, still identifies with the need to point out injustice and evoke compassion. Bringing this itinerant “message theatre” into the 21st century, Malán has built with Milagro the only nationally-touring bilingual troupe, consistently presenting issues of high relevance to Latinos and the US in an engaging and artistic format. She is also the mind behind our arts-infused workshops for students and adults, and is currently conducting the only bilingual arts integration case study for middle Schools in the nation at Evergreen MS in Hillsboro.

Together, these three guiding stars of Searching for Aztlán combine their matching and complementary talents to present and preserve important work exploring history and identity. It is not only the themes of the play that harken back, however. The production’s style itself has tremendous significance, as it continues a tradition of compact sets and props that allows for very efficient communication, traveling light directly to the point.

Get your tickets and come along on this irreverent journey, playing at Milagro Jan. 8-17 before it goes on its national tour through November 2015!