After a 20-month national search, the Mixed Blood Theatre Board of Directors is thrilled to announce that director/playwright/organizer/activist Mark Valdez will become the organization’s second artistic director.

Valdez has directed nine shows at Mixed Blood, served as a Resident Artist for two spans, and has participated in planning and producing for this progressive institution. His forté is partnering with communities, organizations, civic institutions, and others, using theatre and creative tools to address community needs and lift up community voices and stories.

“We are thrilled that Mark will become our next Artistic Director,” said Tabitha Montgomery, former Board President, Interim Managing Director, and a member of the Succession Planning Committee. “His creative dexterity, curiosity, and approach will help the organization take new strides in activating champions for equity and justice on and off the stage.”

Reuler, who founded Mixed Blood in 1976 at the age of 22, is equally enthusiastic about the choice of Valdez. “Mark has been a resident artist, guest director, playwright, organizer, advisor, confidant, and friend to Mixed Blood and me since 2006,” he says. “His belief in what theatre can be – as an art form, tool for social change, and instrument for justice – aligns with Mixed Blood’s new strategic direction and our worldview. I can’t wait to see how this progressive organization will evolve under his leadership.”

About Mark Valdez

Mark Valdez has served as Associate Director of Cornerstone Theater Company, an ensemble creating play in, with, and for communities across the nation. He also headed Cornerstone’s Institute and now is its Board Chair. For seven years, he was the Executive Director of the Network of Ensemble Theatres (NET), a national alliance of artists and organizations committed to collaborative creation. He grew NET from 50 to 400 members and its budget from $60,000 to $900,000.

Valdez is this year’s recipient of SDC’s Zelda Fichandler Award, Americans for the Arts’ second Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities, and the California Arts Council’s 2021 Legacy Artist Fellow. He was director of Mixed Blood’s production of Vietgone, which received an Ivey Award for its ensemble work in 2018. In partnership with ashley sparks, he created, wrote, and directed Mixed Blood’s most recent work, The Most Beautiful Home…Maybe, about housing insecurity. That show is slated for runs in Los Angeles, CA; Syracuse, NY; and Mesa, AZ.

Valdez has authored and directed plays for Trinity Rep, The Alliance Theatre, Native Voices, Teatro Vision, East West Players, ChildsPlay, the Center Theatre Group, and more. He has served on the board of Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and the Performing Arts Alliance as well as directed at numerous colleges and universities. He holds an MFA in directing from the University of California, Irvine.

As a consultant, Valdez has partnered with a variety of institutions interested in engagement and creative community development, including Americans for the Arts, Center for Performance and Civic Practice, Opera America, EMC Arts, LISC, the Irvine Foundation, Community Engagement and the Arts, and Arizona State University.

“Mixed Blood has been an artistic home for me, and I’ve had the privilege to see, first-hand, how the company lives its values of equity and inclusion,” said Valdez. “I am eager to build on this work. We can use the tools and skills of theatermaking—imagination, consensus building, meaning making—to support our communities and our peoples. Mixed Blood’s new strategic direction asks us do just that. This is the work I care most about and I’m lucky to have found a home in Mixed Blood that shares these priorities.”

About the Search Process

Seven board members, led by Artistic Logistics of Georgia, comprised a Succession Planning Committee that created a plan, raised funds, and conducted an extensive nationwide search for the Artistic Director. In addition, Seema Sueko (then Deputy Artistic Director at Arena Stage), Michael Rohd (founder and former Artistic Director of Sojourn Theatre), Laura Zabel (Executive Director of Springboard for the Arts), and Michael John Garces (Artistic Director of Cornerstone) participated in the interview process.

Valdez will be in residence part-time March-May 2022 and begin full-time June 6, 2022. Reuler’s final day will be July 6, such that his tenure spans 2-2-76 to 7-6-22. Valdez will curate programming and the budget for 2022-23.


We are deeply grateful and honored to receive the award of The Outstanding Theatre by The National Theatre Conference for the year 2021.

Read more about the award here. 

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

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

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…!

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.


Media Contacts:

The PR Team,

Tim Komatsu, (612) 338-0937

Mixed Blood ZEALOUS HELLIONS Series Presents


in conversation with Tabitha Montgomery

January 16, 2020

Mixed Blood curates on-stage conversations with iconoclastic thought leaders whose world view aligns with this theatre’s mission, vision, and values: ZEALOUS HELLIONS. A core value of Mixed Blood is to be “predictably unpredictable.” Scores of rascals, renegades, and rebels have found a home at Mixed Blood, a place where unconventional thinking and outspoken people can have a voice. 2019’s Zealous Hellions included Dessa, Oskar Eustis, Ernie Hudson, and Ilhan Omar.

On January 16, Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins will take the stage in Mixed Blood’s Alan Page Auditorium for 2020’s first ZEALOUS HELLIONS offering.

Andrea is the first African American openly trans woman to be elected to office in the United States. A nationally and internationally recognized performance artist, poet, and transgender activist, Andrea received a 2011 Bush Fellowship to advance the work of transgender inclusion. She is also the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, including from the Jerome Foundation, the Napa Valley Writers Conference, the Playwrights’ Center Many Voices Fellowship and was the 2008 Givens Foundation Black Writers Fellow. She will be speaking about art, race, politics, gender, and more in conversation with Mixed Blood’s Tabitha Montgomery (herself the most zealous of hellions).

Tabitha is the Executive Director of the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association and currently serves on Mixed Blood’s Board of Directors. Having abandoned corporate America for the cooperative and non-profit sectors, Tabitha’s values guide her every word and act.

These two Zealous Hellions will empathize, spar, and philosophize with each other, always speaking truth to power. The alchemy of these two can only result in outrage, wisdom, and hilarity.

Andrea moved from Chicago to attend the University of Minnesota in 1979. After graduating, she worked for Hennepin County, and then as a staff member on the Minneapolis City Council for 22 years before beginning work as curator of the Transgender Oral History Project at the University of Minnesota’s Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies. Andrea holds a Masters in Community Development from Southern New Hampshire University, a MFA in Creative Writing from Hamline University, and a BA in Human Services from Metropolitan State University. 

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 of a different facet of a known personality, and a refreshing pause for deeper community dialogue. 

This ZEALOUS HELLIONS offering will take place on January 16 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.

For reservations or further information, call 612-338-0937 or visit

Upcoming ZEALOUS HELLIONS include Taylor Mac (March 17) and Tommy Barbarella (May 1).

About Mixed Blood Theatre: Using theatre as a tool to illustrate and animate, Mixed Blood models pluralism in pursuit of interconnections, shared humanity, and engaged citizenry. Mixed Blood Theatre is located at 1501 S. 4th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55454.