Dangerous Productions works with Karen youth

Photo courtesy Dangerous Productions
Photo courtesy Dangerous Productions

This weekend, a group of 20 Karen students team up with Dangerous Productions to mix storytelling, gaming, and parkour in an event called Jungle2Jungle. Through a partnership with the Karen Organization of Minnesota (KOM), Dangerous Productions takes an unconventional approach in telling the young immigrants' unique personal journeys. 

Dangerous Productions works with Karen youth
Photo courtesy Dangerous Productions

The Karen community, an ethnic minority group from Burma, began arriving to Minnesota in 2002. This is Dangerous Productions' artistic director Tyler Olsen's fourth project working with the community, after previous projects at Rosetown Playhouse and at Bedlam's Big Lowdown. For this project, all of the youth attend St. Paul's International Academy LEAP, and they've been working on the performance since mid-April. 

For the show, Dangerous Productions wanted to create a program that would appeal to both boys and girls, because Olsen's previous work with the Karen community mostly included girls. To that end, Olsen put his mind toward sports -- specifically soccer and break dancing, which are both very popular with the kids. 

"I saw a group break dance, and I thought, 'They would love parkour,'" Olsen says. So after connecting with a gym in Edina called Fight or Flight, Dangerous Productions created a curriculum for the program. 

In addition to learning parkour, Olsen says he wanted to make sure that the young people were having a chance to tell their story. "Basically, we invented games that are kind of like visual representations or metaphors of their stories of coming over," he says. 

Dangerous Productions works with Karen youth
Photo courtesy Dangerous Productions

For example, the team invented a game called blind tag, based on the phenomenon of children interpreting language for their parents and/or grandparents. "You have a five year old translating for a 50 year old -- how do you show that?" Olsen says. In blind tag, one person rides piggyback on another person, where the bottom person represents the parent, who is "blind," and the kid has to tell them where to go. "It's a symbiotic relationship," Olsen says. 

In another game, the young people play out escaping from the Burmese military, and another game explores wanting to go back home to visit family. While there's not a script per se, Olsen says that the actors share their stories through the use of these games that they will demonstrate in the show. 


7 p.m. Friday May 23 and 24
Griggs Playground
1188 Hubbard, St. Paul
Bring a lawn chair.

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Griggs Playground

1188 Hubbard Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55104


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