2021 at Mixed Blood had myriad highlights. Following the January removal of the former President, ANIMATE, performed at Como Zoo, punctuated my career as a director at Mixed Blood. That show – about race and philanthropy through a lens of species preservation and conservation – stretched the art form, showcased our new way of script-creation-through-listening, brought together the brightest talent (and my deepest friendships) in Minnesota, insisted on ethical participation of its audiences, and was packed for the duration of its run that was blessed by good weather.
As a wannabe zoo veterinarian turned activist producer/director, ANIMATE brought my career full circle. The cast represented 500 years of veterans of Mixed Blood’s stages. This project accented the possibilities of cross-sector partnerships as mutually beneficial. Its popularity made me re-think the public appetite for theatre’s birthright – stages, seats, actors, audiences, and intimacy – in the midst of Pandemic, and our next show was in a former Ford dealership’s garage.
But the biggest shift in Mixed Blood’s ambitions for its art involved audience as participants. After eight scenes posing ethical conundrums, those in attendance had to engage their moral compasses and determine the end of the play. As evidence that the playwright didn’t stack the deck to lead audiences to obvious conclusions, five different endings were revealed, crafted only by individuals engaging their personal principles.
Oh, and by the way, the show started with a helicopter landing to start the whodunnit! Como Zoo’s leadership and staff believed in ANIMATE’s aspirations and couldn’t have been more supportive. In 2021, ANIMATE shines as ambition is realized. In its 46 year history, we at Mixed Blood rank ANIMATE atop a long list of accomplishments.
In 2021, we welcomed in a great new staff, waved goodbye (at long last) to a national president, and look forward to a new year. Uncertainty and change are the fuels that allow Mixed Blood to mature and evolve. On December 31, 2021, there is no shortage of either.
– Jack Reuler