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

Oh hey! My name is Andrea. I am an intern this season at Mixed Blood Theatre working on a documentary project for the upcoming world premier of Interstate, a Queer Asian American pop-rock poetry musical (yes you read that correctly!) written by Melissa Li and Kit Yan, directed by Jesca Prudencio. 

First, I will share a little about myself. I am an Asian American cis woman adopted from China and raised in Minneapolis by my Czech immigrant parents. As a public history graduate student, I am excited to explore new methods to narrate, connect, and remember histories of transnational family making. With this goal, I am extra interested in public performance as a powerful site for claiming familial, racial, and national belonging – which is why I am so excited to be at Mixed Blood Theatre this spring! I also (shameless plug alert) volunteer for MidWest Mixed – an amazing community org that hosts dialogues and arts programming centered on race and racial identity in the midwest. 

Now a little background on this project. The majority of Interstate’s production team will be flying in from out-of-state, including the director, one out of the two writers, and most of the cast. At the same time, Interstate’s materialization this March will occur in context of an increasingly visible queer Asian American community in the Twin Cities. My goal is to place Interstate’s production at Mixed Blood Theatre in conversation with local queer and Asian American spaces. The final format of this documentary project will be a mixed media digital archive of select materials from Interstate’s local production, interpreted as sharing space and history with concurrent productions of other queer Asian American spaces (both artistic and political) in the Twin Cities. This internship with Mixed Blood Theatre is funded by the Minnesota Historical Society in partnership with the Heritage Studies and Public History program at the University of Minnesota. 

So, why is this documentary project important? I pose this question out of formality, and hope that the answers won’t be too surprising.

  1. Cultivating community: Community awareness and involvement is central to Mixed Blood Theatre’s philosophy. I hope this project contributes to MBT’s relationships with local queer and Asian American spaces.
  2. Archives are history: Queer and Trans Asian American histories in the midwest are yet relatively hard to locate. I hope for this documentary project to stand as a resource for anyone interested in Interstate’s local significance in the Twin Cities.
  3. Personal interest: I am using this project as an opportunity to explore broader research interests in familial and national identity claiming in a theater performance space (very new to me!) while gaining skills in digital public history methods.

Because self-directed project accountability risks existing only in my imagination, I have committed myself to sharing a weekly blog update starting with this one! These can be viewed here at the Interstate Media Room page.

If it’s any incentive, my future posts will never again be this long (or so I say now). Looking forward to the weeks ahead!

 

Andrea

 

MIXED BLOOD THEATRE REDEFINES BEING RADICALLY HOSPITABLE WITH LATEST PRODUCTION OF TONY AWARD WINNER THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

 

By Simon Stephens based on the novel by Mark Haddon,
directed by Jack Reuler (Minneapolis/St. Paul)—

In 2011, Mixed Blood Theatre launched Radical Hospitality, a no-cost admission program created to remove the financial barrier for audience participation in the theatre. While Radical Hospitality is certainly the theatre’s most widely-recognized access initiative, founding Artistic Director, Jack Reuler, the staff and Board have been redefining what it means to be radically hospitable for the entirety of Mixed Blood’s existence.

Its current production, THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME is the vehicle for the Theatre’s latest attempt to swing wide the firehouse doors. For the November 29th 6:30pm performance of CURIOUS, Mixed Blood will welcome audience members who are both deaf and blind to the firehouse providing support for their experience including one-to-one interpreters. This effort lands on an impressive list of the nonstop efforts Mixed Blood makes to serve marginalized communities.

All Mixed Blood performances are equipped with supertitles for those with hearing loss. A recent endeavor to successfully mechanize audio description allows for persons with low vision or who are blind to attend any performance. Additionally, each production run hosts a night curated by the Theatre’s Disability Advisory Council that often includes a pre-show tactile tour of the set and costumes for those with vision challenges.

Mixed Blood’s Target Equity Hall Lobby, Alan Page Auditorium, and restrooms are fully accessible and wheelchair users may watch from throughout the auditorium. Patrons with disabilities are welcome to take advantage of the no-cost admission by making reservations in advance and are provided with free transportation to and from the Theatre if this is a barrier to attendance. “Mixed Blood’s Radical Hospitality and audience initiative really do advance the cause of access for people with disabilities,” says Regan Linton, actor and Artistic Director of Phamaly Theatre, who uses a wheelchair, and is part of the CURIOUS acting ensemble. “A lot of people are having these conversations but Mixed Blood walks the talk. I do believe that Mixed Blood is ahead of other theatres in the country.”

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME runs November 10-December 3. About​ ​Mixed​ ​Blood​ ​Theatre:​ ​Using theater as a tool to illustrate and animate, Mixed Blood Mixed Blood models pluralism in pursuit of interconnections, shared humanity, and engaged citizenry. Mixed Blood aspires to be the destination for people with disabilities. Patrons with disabilities are eligible for free advanced reservations and free transportation to and from the theatre. All performances are captioned in English with projected supertitles for patrons with hearing loss. For people with vision loss, audio description is also available for most performances.

Visit www.mixedblood.com​ or call 612-338-6131​ for more information.