Mixed Blood Theatre

Reports to: Artistic Director (AD) 

Works with: Board of Directors (BOD) 

Direct reports: 5 to 6 [FTEs & PTEs] 

Status: Full-time Exempt 

Salary: $55,000-75,000/year

ABOUT MIXED BLOOD THEATRE 

Using theater to disrupt injustice, model equity, and create community, Mixed Blood Theatre has invited the global  village into its audience and onto its stage for its unique brand of challenging, inclusive, and predictably unpredictable  theatre since 1976. Winner of numerous awards for its human rights and artistic accomplishments, Mixed Blood pays  positive attention to differences and champions access; its ground-breaking commitment to access, Radical  Hospitality, is nationally renowned.  Located in the Minneapolis’ Cedar Riverside neighborhood, Mixed Blood is a point  of assembly for residents and organizations and leads audiences to a much larger world, spawning a ripple effect of  social change.  Mixed Blood has no debt, owns its own facility, and has an operating reserve. 

MISSION STATEMENT: Using theater to illustrate and animate, Mixed Blood models pluralism in pursuit of  interconnections, shared humanity, and engaged citizenry 

VISION STATEMENT: As a beacon for the global village of Minnesota and beyond, Mixed Blood will champion equity  and animate social change through exceptional artistry, catalytic relationships, and universal access.  

Radical Hospitality is core to Mixed Blood’s organizing principles. We model reciprocity, inclusion, and genuine  welcoming to build relationships. We seek to make theatre beneficial by engaging with individuals and communities  for whom theatre and the arts have not been available due to lack of resources, racism, physical accessibility, gender  discrimination, or other barriers. We strive to ensure that the nature, content, and practices embedded in our work  are founded in integrity and equity, and engage the breadth and depth of our many communities. 

POSITION SUMMARY – Managing Director 

The Managing Director (MD) manages all of Mixed Blood’s administrative, human resources and operations functions;  cultivates resources supporting the theatre’s social justice-rooted mission and vision; nurtures reciprocity, inclusion,  and openness among the staff; and oversees brand & marketing management. The MD is a thought partner to the  Artistic Director (AD) in developing and implementing strategies at all levels of the organization. The MD position  requires strong planning, analysis, fundraising, management, and finance skills.  The MD oversees strategic planning  and implementation in partnership with the AD and the Board of Directors, supports the Board through reporting and  communications, and serves on Board committees as appropriate. The ideal candidate can represent and speak clearly  about the mission, vision, and values of Mixed Blood and its programming and aspirations to effect cultural change. 

Finance 

Lead annual budgeting process  

Create forecast and cash flow projections; manage cash flow and monitor spending to budget

Supervise A/P, A/R and payroll; manage A/R, including collections 

Oversee financial reporting and annual audit; provide reports as needed to staff, board, and outside entities

Adhere to sound financial management policies and strategies, and establish new as necessary

Manage and invest assets in consultation with AD and BOD 

Fundraising 

Oversee development strategy creation, in partnership with the Development Director; and input from select staff

Cultivate and oversee that all major gifts and institutional funding relationships remain healthy

Guide the creation, management and monitoring of a donor relations/individual giving plan

Oversee event planning for donors, members, and other stakeholders 

Brand/Marketing Management & External Communications 

Frame and direct how Mixed Blood’s brand is reflected to stakeholders in support of the mission

Maintain organization brand guidelines and ensure staff and contractors leverage as appropriate

Fuse Mixed Blood’s notion of Radical Hospitality within all key operations 

Operations/General Management 

Manage all insurance(s), licenses, and regulatory compliance 

Execute legal contracts: facilities, union, personnel, vehicle leasing, lodging leases, storage, materials licensing, etc.

Oversee facilities/property management 

Maintain service organization memberships 

Human Resources Management 

Supervises Marketing/Communications Director, Development Director, and Bookkeeper

Establish and review core work plans and assignments and help direct staff priorities on an ongoing basis

Support direct report’s attainment of goals by providing internal and or external resources

Ensure a supportive work environment by fostering culture that values diversity, inclusion, and equity.

▪ Oversee recruitment and hiring, and performance management processes including documentation 

This job description is not exhaustive and is subject to review in conjunction with the post holder and according to  future changes/developments. The employee may be required to perform duties outside of this description as  operationally required and at the discretion of the Artistic Director when applicable. 

SKILLS, KNOWLEDGE AND ESSENTIAL ATTRIBUTES 

Our ideal candidate demonstrates a core belief in and practice of the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion; is a change agent, creative community connector, committed team builder, and energetic self-starter with the  following attributes: 

Min. of 3 years non-profit management experience; demonstrated ability to manage time, tasks, money, quality  and staff of at least 3 persons 

Demonstrated strength in non-profit financial management, including creation/use of non-profit financial reports

Fundraising experience and acumen with proven results;  

Successful track record of identifying, cultivating, and soliciting contributions with strong interpersonal skills

Excellent written and verbal communication skills  

Ability to navigate interpersonal and group dynamics and in setting a positive work environment

Creative, methodological process orientation and strong analytical skills 

Ability to set strategic direction and execute such strategy effectively 

Positive, entrepreneurial spirit 

Hands-on, detail-oriented mentality 

Self-motivated, collaborative, organized, able to manage multiple priorities 

Working knowledge of database management 

Mixed Blood Theatre is committed to advancing equity and diversity in all that we do. MBT does not discriminate on  the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital or familial status, sexual orientation,  gender identity, veteran status or any other basis prohibited by local, state, or federal law. We encourage people of all  backgrounds to apply, including people of color, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with disabilities, veterans, and  others who demonstrate the ability to help us achieve our vision of a diverse and inclusive community. Successful  candidates will commit to an equitable and inclusive workplace, including but not limited to: racial equity, accessibility  for individuals with disabilities, use of gender inclusive language, and cultural sensitivity.

Please introduce yourself and share your resume with us at jobs@mixedblood.com by November 20, 2020

A futurist is not someone with a crystal ball, but rather someone who recognizes trends and acts in anticipation. Last May, we at Mixed Blood produced a wild extravaganza entitled AUTONOMY. It featured a threatened DACA Dreamer, a would-be global pandemic, and corporate greed as well as the benefits of autonomous vehicles. A year later we’re experiencing a massive pandemic, the Supreme Court has ruled protectively on DACA this week, corporate taxes were cut by 12%, and climate change is a year closer to planetary catastrophe.

In March of 2019, we produced ROE, about the complicated person who was the Roe of Roe v Wade. Within 65 days of our closing, 13 states had passed laws that limited reproductive rights as that landmark Supreme Court ruling got challenged repeatedly in 2019.

In March COVID-19 closed our hit musical, INTERSTATE, in which an activist trans spoken word artist and lesbian singer-songwriter trumpet their politics across America. Last week SCOTUS ruled that employers cannot discriminate against trans and LGBTQIA employees.

Our neighborhood – Cedar Riverside – was greatly impacted by President Trump’s travel bans on predominantly Muslim countries, including Somalia. SCOTUS shot that travel ban down twice.

We will marshal our artists to mobilize people to register to vote, to vote, and to impact the outcome of the 2020 national election, an outcome that will no doubt be challenged legally and arrive at the Supreme Court.

Lots of theaters refer to their work as “ripped from the headlines,” but at Mixed Blood our work isn’t successful if there isn’t a call to action for its participants, including its viewers. Is our work the bellwether of what will be heard by the High Court? Better keep coming to find out!

-Jack Reuler

Text: Never Underestimate the Activist Artist over an image of the Firehouse

My family has lived in the City of Minneapolis since the 1880s. For decades those five generations were a great source of pride. On the block on which I work (at Mixed Blood) are 5000 people, most of whom have been Minneapolitans for less than twenty years. Of that I am even more proud. I live a dozen blocks from 38th and Chicago. While not in Minnesota, my cousin Michael Reuler is a proud police officer and I am proud of him.

So I take the death of George Floyd very personally. Not in my city! Not in my
neighborhood!

We at Mixed Blood are going to prove to the powers-that-be that they were mistaken not to deem the arts, theater, or Mixed Blood essential in this time of pandemic, We are going to commission artists as truth sayers to use their art to speak their truths. We are going to prod activists to be active and give them the forum to do so. We are going to be voices in the ears of policy makers and service providers to do better. Look for us to be referees of racism, calling foul wherever we see it. Watch us seek appointments on commissions and task forces (including PACC and OPCR) and vote for us when we run for office. And better get there early because we’re going to pack the court rooms and
hold justice accountable. Above all, never underestimate the activist artist – we are not just the conscience of this community, but also the spark plugs of remedy. I considered Jerry Haaf, Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, and George Floyd to be my neighbors.

Don’t mar Minneapolis – the artivists of Mixed Blood will hold you accountable.

-Jack Reuler

Artistic Director

Mixed Blood Theatre Company

Time Loss text image with stylized font

Reflections on my pre- social distancing interview

On art, community building, and audience engagement

 

With Hayden Bui, Tori Hong, and Tim Komatsu

 

Check out the interview from 3/3/2020 with Tori, Hayden, Tim and myself here:

I cannot believe this interview was recorded only four weeks ago. Prior to the opening of Interstate at Mixed Blood Theatre, I had the opportunity to sit down with visual artists Tori Hong and Hayden Bui, along with MBT’s Audience Engagement Manager, Tim Komatsu, to talk about Tori and Hayden’s recent exhibition, Time Loss. The exhibit was installed inside the lobby of Mixed Blood Theatre just days before Interstate’s Preview Night. Time Loss was going to remain on display through the full run of Interstate until the end of March. 

image of Time Loss exhibit installed on white background

Time Loss, 2020. Image provided by artists, Tori Hong and Hayden Bui

Of course, in the interest of public safety, Interstate at Mixed Blood Theatre closed to the public two weeks earlier than planned. Not only at MBT, but the show production, community outreach, general administration, and means of income for many of those in the theater and live performance industry recently came to an all but total standstill in the midst of a public health crisis. As we are all too aware. While the Twin Cities is certainly home to a few relatively endowed theater companies, the majority of smaller organizations do not have the resources to weather over one season’s worth of lost revenue. These organizations, and the people depending on them for income, face challenging and unprecedented questions about the future.

Second to basic needs and organization solvency…

I am wondering about the impact of the interrupting space creation for communities like those gathering at Mixed Blood Theatre. As a public historian, I am fascinated with performance in the first place for its potential, as a shared space of embodied knowledge, to radically foster and facilitate storytelling and history. Theater spaces during live performances, in particular, seem undervalued as sites of public history despite their immense power in bringing communities together in witness and in dialogue over political ideas. The audience engagement work planned around Interstate, including the installation of Time Loss as well as a series of Talk Backs with local queer, trans, and Asian groups, was a core part of the theater’s community praxis.

So, where to direct the impetus for audience engagement initiatives in the midst of crisis and need for social distancing? The role of creating community spaces, not to mention art’s potential to facilitate and to inspire these spaces, has not disappeared and in fact is more important now than ever. The interview we recorded at the beginning of March does not anticipate the extent of COVID-19’s impact on Interstate’s run at Mixed Blood Theatre, let alone its implications on the entire theater industry. Nevertheless, I hope Hayden, Tori, and Tim’s insights and our conversation can contribute to the growing pool of digital resources available for both archival and community building initiatives. 

 

Andrea Manolov | Archival Intern for Interstate

Heritage Studies and Public History, MA Student

University of Minnesota

 

Time Loss Artist Statement and Bios kindly provided by Tori and Hayden

 

Time Loss text image with stylized fontArtist Statement

Weaving through space, time, and distance, TIME LOSS explores queer Asian diasporic love, intergenerational healing, and interdimensional growth. This exhibition features art from emerging artists and life partners Hayden Bui and Tori Hong. 

Through our work, we constantly question: How do we think and move throughout the world? How do we express all of our identities as a whole? How do we take moments and people of the past and bring them into the present and to future generations? 

Ultimately, we are chasing that sweetness that belongs in us all. 

Artist Bios

Hayden Bui is a full time student at the U of M, studying Art and Asian American Studies. He is an emerging queer and trans artist that is passionate about organizing and creating art for LGBTQ people of color, primarily trans and queer Asian individuals. Hayden’s work endeavors to build something unlike anything around us, expressed through paintings and sculptures that use color and movement.

Hayden Bui outside fall weather

IG: @OnlyKeep

bui00088@umn.edu

 

Tori Hong is an independent illustrator, workshop/small group facilitator, community-driven curator, and public artist. Tori explores the connections between art and ancestors, using bold lines, vibrant colors, and deep trust in her work. Through her art, Tori centers communities of color & LGBTQ communities, particularly queer & trans Asian Americans.

Tori Hong against pink wallpaper

IG: @Tori.Hong

www.ToriHong.com

tori.s.hong@gmail.com

Patricia O'Leary

Imagine living in a place for ten years. How many papers, photos, memories, do you have built up? Did you create a system for organizing these things? Are they stuck in boxes until you randomly find them again? Now, imagine 45 years. My first day at Mixed Blood, I sat here, looking at a desk full of a conglomeration of memorabilia. When you are cleaning your own home, you can recognize what you are looking at. I sat there, staring at a mountain, with zero knowledge of the terrain.

Before I became an archival intern at Mixed Blood, I worked on a similar project in southern California. I sat in a library and quietly played music while I sorted through stacks of newsletters and newspaper articles. That was a historical society, this is a historical theatre. I explored closets and cabinets to find remote control cars and a fake pile of fecal matter. I worked, while listening to people singing and rehearsing. I found strange photos and videos of a chicken in an elevator, and a commercial for frosted flakes. Even more interesting, I found photos of people like me, from the Latinx community. I saw photos of African Americans, American Indians, Southeast Asians, and so on. I found photos of powerful people in wheelchairs, of people using sign language, of people with different abilities and backgrounds creating a beautiful cacophony of performances.

Yes, I was overwhelmed on the first day, but I was also inspired. If I asked you to find a photo of you as a kid, from your fourth birthday party, how soon could you find it? If staff from Mixed Blood asked me to find a photo from a show performed 25 years ago, how soon could I deliver it? This project is quite an endeavor, but it is an endeavor I can proudly partake in.

-Patricia O’Leary

Taylor Mac

ReMedia Contact:
Sarah Kemp
sarahk@cschuler.com
612-206-0291

Mixed Blood ZEALOUS HELLIONS Series Presents: TAYLOR MAC
MINNEAPOLIS (February 20, 2020)—Mixed Blood Theatre hosts Taylor Mac in their newest ZEALOUS HELLIONS event on March 17, 2020 at 7 P.M. ZEALOUS HELLIONS is a project of Mixed Blood Theatre to provide the community with real-time, face-to-face conversations between artists, cultural provocateurs, politicians and thought-leaders in an intimate setting. The program allows audiences a glimpse into a different facet of a known personality and opportunity for deeper community dialogue.

Taylor Mac, who uses “judy” (lowercase unless at the start of a sentence, just like a regular pronoun), not as a name but as a gender pronoun – is a playwright, actor, singer-songwriter, performance artist, director and producer. Judy’s work has been performed in hundreds of venues including on Broadway, the Lincoln Center, D.C.’s Kennedy Center and the Sydney Opera House – just to name a few. Mac is a MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, a Pulitzer prize finalist for drama, a Tony nominated playwright and the recipient of countless awards.

Mac will discuss art, gender, expression and last year’s Broadway experience with the show Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus in conversation with Jeremy Cohen, the Producing Artistic Director of the Playwrights’ Center.

“Political, virtuosic, and brilliant, Taylor Mac engages audiences as active participants in works that dramatize the power of theater as a space for building community – embodying the ambitions of the Mixed Blood Theatre,” says Artistic Director Jack Reuler. “Taylor and Jeremy Cohen will ignite our Zealous Hellions audiences to perceive the possibilities of live theater through a new lens.”

Mac and Cohen will debate, connect and theorize with each other on stage which, in combination with audience energy and participation, will result in humor, inspiration and wisdom.

This ZEALOUS HELLIONS offering will take place on March 17 from 7:00PM and last 90 minutes. Guarantee admission for $25, become a member, or attend without charge on a first-come-first-served basis via Radical Hospitality.

Find reservations or further information here or call 612-338-0937.

Upcoming ZEALOUS HELLIONS include Tommy Barbarella (May 1).

###

About Mixed Blood Theatre: Mixed Blood Theatre has invited the global village into its audience and onto its stage for its unique brand of provocative, inclusive, and predictably unpredictable theater since 1976. Using theater to illustrate and animate, Mixed Blood models pluralism in pursuit of interconnections, shared humanity, and engaged citizenry. Mixed Blood is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and is a member of Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and the National New Play Network (NNPN). Find more information at https://mixedblood.com.

Founder Jack Reuler

In two weeks we open a great new musical, Interstate, that is vintage Mixed Blood: substantive, entertaining, predictably unpredictable, and bringing together people with difference. The firehouse bounces with youthful zeal and artistic excellence as director Jesca Prudencio guides eight actor-singers, four musicians, five designers, and a battery of other artists and artisans to great storytelling through vocal stylings that cross all genres.

Interstate is not without precedent. We have produced scores of original musicals in our Alan Page Auditorium, throughout the Upper Midwest, and in workplaces of all kinds. In our inaugural year, the year of the Bicentennial, Carl Lumbly and I wrote Badd High, a musical about a changing Minneapolis – nostalgia and tradition confront “progress.” One critic remarked, “to demean it would be like kicking a warm puppy.” But trust me, it was all heart, cleverly written, and poorly performed. The 1980’s launched such masterpieces as Rapmaster Ronnie (about Reagan), Motown Opera, Black Magic, and Baby Boomers Black Big Bands Meet The Great Falsettos, among others. (We did perform 504 performances of A…My Name Is Alice, but that wasn’t our creation.) In the 1990’s, we produced Ring of Fire, Baby Baby, Minnecanos, and Jevetta Steele and I mounted three versions of Black Belts.

The new millennium showed maturation with Two Queens One Castle, Found, and Point of Revue in the oughts. We’ve gotten better and better until now as the Roaring 20’s kick off with Interstate, a musical with years of development, showcases, festivals, and now its world premiere in our Alan Page Auditorium, culminating a process that began when Jerry Ford was Prez! In that year we sang a Democrat into the West Wing. Perhaps Interstate…!

Colored prints of Interstate Concept Design

Feb. 17, 2020

Colored print of Interstate Concept Design Cover Page

Interstate Concept Design by Justin Humphres (12/2/2019)

I began recording on Tuesday at Interstate’s first rehearsal. Director Jesca Prudencio, writers Kit Yan and Melissa Li, and all of Interstate’s eight person cast settled around a table in the rehearsal space for the first script read through. I sat with Molly Brandt, Mixed Blood Theatre’s Program Assistant, on a couple of unassuming chairs by the doorway, coffee mugs and cameras in hand. After introductions, with MBT Stage Manager Raúl Ramos’s blessing, we slipped off our chairs and spent the next couple of hours circling the director/writer/cast table taking pictures and videos from any conceivable angle. Molly’s goal was to capture content for the theater’s social medias. My goal was to start building a photo collection for the documentary and archive. Halfway through the rehearsal, Molly asked me if I was getting good stuff. My honest answer – I have no idea.

Here’s a little more honesty. Last semester, I was fortunate to schedule a meeting with Charlie from the University of Minnesota Libraries’ SMART Learning Commons. Over the course of one hour, Charlie gave me an impressively comprehensive crash course on basic video and audio recording technique. The purpose of this was to prepare me to produce a five minute “digital narrative” for one of my graduate courses. In November, I borrowed a mic and camera from SMART, filmed this class project within the comfort of my apartment, and employed the help of precisely two additional people. From start to finish this project spanned about three weeks and pretty much sums up the entirety of my digital recording experience.

As soon as I began interning at Mixed Blood, I realized that this documentary would be… a little more intensive. Before my naivety surpasses redemption let me just say – of course I knew this project would be different. Of course I knew that within an established theater company populated by theater industry professionals, a multi media documentary project would call for getting to know a new environment, forming new relationships, and climbing an industry learning curve. Compared to these priorities, technical film and photography skills even take back seat while still requiring time and energy. However, despite all anticipated challenges at the time I entered MBT a few weeks ago I felt reasonably prepared. For the past few years I have worked in various capacities in a number of local arts spaces, ranging from creative literary centers to museums to volunteer run community organizations. I spent all of childhood attending a Chinese dance school in Saint Paul, a let’s just say formative experience which very much influences my fascination (academic and IRL) in the ways ethnic dance performances are inevitably sites of community, identity, and politics.

Theater, I am quickly learning, is a different animal! Growing up in Minneapolis, I was aware that the Twin Cities is home to a sizable theater community. But I had only ever attended shows and not been exposed to the production side of this world. Now I am learning, for example, that it is normal for a superhuman skeleton crew of theater house staff to manage set, sound, costumes, auditions, communications, community engagement, EVERYBODY’S schedules, and, most crucial for success, rehearsal snacks. It is not usual for a musical premiere in the upper midwest to fly their director in from California, the playwrights in from New York, joined by a cast assembled from around the country. Not to mention, none of these folks have all been in one room together until the first rehearsal just four weeks before opening night. Even more wild was the ability of the cast to rehearse the entire musical together on the first try. Granted this was the first script read through I have had the opportunity to sit in on, so I didn’t have much to compare with. But listening to them I could not believe this cast had never before practiced together. (If museum boards operated with this kind of speed and flexibility, oh my word I would not even recognize them as museum boards.) So while getting acquainted with the workings of at least this particular production, not to mention the norms of the theater industry as a whole, I am also distantly wondering, while fumbling with the exposure settings on something called a Vixia, if I am getting good stuff.

Thankfully – here is the beauty and the privilege of my internship – there is relatively little at stake and endless opportunities to learn. Furthermore, I am not starting on nothing. What really excites me about the chance to self-direct the work I do at Mixed Blood is that I am able to explore new ways of applying the class discussions and the literature I am immersed in as public history graduate student to a space that is not traditionally considered a site of public history. The making of physical, social, and political spaces (including performance spaces) always engages with histories of place and people. A large chunk of my personal motivation to intern at Mixed Blood Theatre is the organization’s self awareness as a site of history and community. Tim Komatsu, Mixed Blood’s Audience Engagement Manager, works close to 24/7 during shows to organize and facilitate audience Talk Backs, and to communicate with MBT’s three community advisory councils. A quick conversation with Kit and Melissa (Interstate’s writers) the other day gave me a better understanding of just how committed both writers are to Interstate’s relationship with local queer and trans Asian communities. They began forging friendships and tapping into Twin Cities activist circles over 10 years ago, when their 2008 cross country tour that later inspired Interstate made a stop in Minneapolis.

Picture of handwritten Community Agreements

Community Agreements, Interstate First Rehearsal, Mixed Blood Theater (2/11/2020)

All of this has been informing my reflections on the ways theater practices can challenge and contribute to the (slow but quickening!) transformation of the public history field, and to expand conceptions of where history can be created and witnessed in the first place. I feel especially inspired by the attention and intention that Interstate’s team places on language, consent, positioning and moving of bodies, and cultivating of community relations. It would feel revolutionary for museums and other traditional sites of historic interpretation to integrate such practices on the level of depth and sustained commitment that has been written into the production of Interstate. Ultimately, if I am able to “capture” and convey at least some of these inspirations in the documentary that would be nice! Though I am keeping things open ended for now, and feel it will be better for my sanity anyway to not fixate on whether I am getting everything I need.

The late winter season always has me feeling a little overrun, and this year is no exception. My wish for everyone including myself is to enjoy a bowl of pho this week. (If you are in Minneapolis, I highly recommend Phở Hòa on Eat Street.)

Warmly,

Andrea

Kit and Melissa

Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration for the show? 

ML: It’s a semi-autobiographical show. Kit and I met in Boston a really long time ago when we both performed at a monthly Queer Asian cabaret where we became friends. One day he asked me to go on tour with him and I said “I’m in my early 20s, I don’t have all that much going on, sure!” and so we went on two tours (in 2008 and 2009) where we performed as “Good Asian Drivers”. It was sort of the beginning of social media “stardom” and we had a pretty big following. And then some things happened (some of which made its way into the show) and we broke up as a band and were actually like mortal enemies for two years. But during that time Kit was actually processing that by writing a lot of poems, and when we became friends again, he brought them to me and I was like “What are these? These are terrible!” 

KY: Hey! [Laughter] Okay yes so I wrote this shitty collection of poems and I brought them to Melissa and said “I think this should be a musical, what do you think?” because I knew she’d written a musical before. 

ML: Yeah, I usually never want to write a new musical, so it’s kind of funny that we ended up here. 

KY: As a job. 

ML: Whenever I do it, it’s always like birthing a child and then I think “I never want to do this again”. But even when we weren’t friends, Kit, I wanted to write something about our experience too. I think it just came together that we both wanted to process this through art. 

KY: Like when we were more mature. [Laughs] 

ML: That was in 2013, so this show is 7 years in the making. 

How much of an effort did you make to differentiate yourselves from the main characters? 

ML: Originally, it was much closer to us, but we found that can actually be really constricting and when we remove ourselves from the characters they can become more interesting and have more flaws and we can dig deeper into things that ring true for us but are also theatrical. For example, I think Dash has a lot of flaws (many of which have to do with toxic masculinity) but it would be unfair to say Kit had all of those flaws. [Laughter] But I think because we have that distance we can say more about the world. 

KY: You know what’s so funny to hear about that? Melissa has described the first five years of this show’s journey as essentially one long journal entry about that time via a musical. And then we spent all this time removing ourselves a little bit and incorporating people that we met on the road. But as we spend more time developing INTERSTATE on the stage, I feel like we’ve been coming back closer and closer to real life. We definitely fictionalize a lot of the plot points, but as we made the first couple of drafts we were trying to put in a lot of emotional distance, and now that I’ve processed that experience I feel like I’m able to get closer to that story and what it was like to be on the road and have tension with a friend, what it was like to have pressure of how we’re gonna make a living. 

ML: Yeah, once we were able to move some of the plot elements to be further away from real life, we’ve been able to get closer to the heart of the emotion of the show, which is what makes this show powerful for other people as well. 

The relationships between Dash and Adrian about their parents seem really rooted in the challenges of the young Asian American experience. Can you speak to the importance of including the band’s parents in the show? 

ML: It was important for us to see a glimpse of how they were raised, the people that influenced them at home, and how that caused a ripple effect to how they behave on tour. Like for Adrian, [you might ask] why is she so ambitious, what does she have to prove? And then you see it is her mom who is the person always saying she’s going to fail and that’s the thing that drives her to really prove her wrong. With the dad character, it was important for us to show an accepting Asian parent. And obviously with the dad teaching what he’s learned from society to his son about being a man and just perpetuating that sort of idea of masculinity. 

KY: We come from really communal communities, our families are really important to us. And I think a lot of time for Queer Asian Americans coming out doesn’t always mean breaking out on your own and being individualistic and rejecting your family. A lot of times folks in Asian American communities may never come out because it’s more important to maintain their home life and their identity in that particular arena. There are issues around wanting your family to be a part of your journey, even if it’s going to be a slow process. I definitely felt that no matter how hard it was going to be I wanted to have my family be a part of my queer and trans journey. In my view, it’s part of my responsibility to be in conversation with my family regardless of what it’s about. Being queer and trans is one thing, but being an artist was a whole other thing…even leaving home for college. It’s important for me to always talk to my family and my parents. Melissa and I started out in Queer Asian organizing and time and time again a lot of folks in our community do not want to reject our families and our parents just because we’re sharing a new part of ourselves. I think that’s a very Western narrative. It’s not bad, it’s just different. 

ML: And to add to that, the role that the parents play is really important in the exploration. One of the themes of the show is transphobia and homophobia and what that looks like depending on context and “who has it harder”. And that’s part of what we want to explore, like, Adrian gets a record deal because the music industry is transphobic but then at home her queerness is rejected by her mother whereas Dash’s dad is totally accepting. And then in terms of them going out on the road, Dash gets all these solo opportunities to perform for trans groups. And that’s something that just adds an interesting dynamic; the parent’s reaction to their kids. 

KY: Yeah, and this is part of the story we’re interested in addressing. Oppression doesn’t really work like that; you can’t have a cis lesbian woman and a trans man go at each other about who has it harder. Oppression is such a web and it’s so individual and it has to do with familial, cultural, even world history. And that’s something that’s so important for us to explore with this show. The characters are all individuals, but they’re in this pressure cooker to be representatives of their communities. 

Has the changing political landscape changed the show? 

ML: Through the years I’ve noticed more trans representation. I think we would still be fighting for this piece no matter what, but we wanted it to be set in 2008 because so many things that happened were so specific to that time period. We really were one of the only queer Asians that were out there talking about transness and queerness and being Asian. Now there’s a lot more of it, but it’s important to set it in that time period so people can understand the context now. 

KY: People keep saying that this show is so timely, but 2008 was over a decade ago and we’ve been doing this work all that time. The world is always changing, but we’ll always be making this art regardless of how the tide turns. I have found that people are more open to hearing our story now, and particularly exploring a trans world, but I have found that there is still a really sensational and tokenized lens of what it means to be trans. We really struggled with the fact that we’re still in a moment where people need trans people to be heroes (or sheroes) and to be really exceptional. Our characters are so far from exceptional, especially Dash who has so many issues. When we were first making this musical we would think “shit, if we have a trans character who’s not a perfect person or even a terrible human sometimes what does that say about our community?” But now I think the best thing we can do is to write fully realized characters. Our characters just need to be full people in a full world, and I want to assume that the audience can meet us where we’re at. We’re writing for now, we’re writing for the future, we’re writing to rewrite history.