Portland-based theater company Teatro Milagro will explore the complexity of identity in a free performance Wednesday at Rogue Community College in Medford.
The curtain will go up at 7 p.m. at Rogue Performance Hall, in Building C, Room 109, on the RCC Riverside Campus.
Teatro Milagro's production of "Bi-" tells the story of four friends navigating their world, "Tierra Plana," in 2089. As they prepare for the day when they will receive their "identity bracelets," Fig, Noir, Isa and Hex discover past U.S. Census documents that reveal to them the "stories of people from across the binary," an RCC press release said. Their discoveries lead them to question the validity of the identity boxes they are about to be put into in this strange world.
The play was written, using both English and Spanish dialogue, by Manhattan-based playwright Georgina Escobar as an adaptation of Edwin Abbot's 1884 novel "Flatland." Although the plot differs significantly from Escobar's play, "Flatland" used satire similarly to poke fun at social categories that maintained expected behaviors and responses based on those categories.
Dañel Malán, co-founder of Teatro Milagro, said she and another playwright with the company interviewed about 10 people over six months about which categories they identify with, and the accompanying struggles, to shape the play.
"We asked them first: When they heard the word 'bi-' how would you finish that?" Malán said.
Answers, she said, ranged from bilingual to bisexual to bipedal. The interviewees were asked which "bi-" categories most influenced their view of themselves, and "how that was either positive and negative."
While acknowledging that discussions about identity are sometimes controversial or tense, Malán said the performance is appropriate for all ages and deals with the subject humorously.
Malán said the company has returned to Medford to give a free performance and lead workshops at interested schools every year since 1996. This year, the traveling troupe visited with students from Eagle Point and Crater high schools.
"Being exposed to different kinds of theater is always good," said Elisabeth Oppelt, drama teacher at Eagle Point High School. Her students spent the workshop learning devised theater, which is a collaborative method of producing a play that incorporates actors' experiences and perspectives to shape the performance.
"I think that’s a skill that a lot of students can benefit from," she said.
Choreographer and assistant director Gabriela Portuguez said she was inspired by societal perceptions of the characters' identities to shape how she arranged dances.
"I didn’t want amazement," she said. "What I wanted was the ability to naturally see how one person can be categorized just by walking, just by turning."
— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ka_tornay.