Joe Minjares understands the issues at the heart of Crashing the Party, a world premiere comedy by Josh Tobeissen opening this weekend at Mixed Blood Theatre. Minjares, a longtime actor and restaurateur, has always had to balance his professional and family lives.
"I haven't done a play in a couple of years, so I'm a little nervous getting up on the boards again," he says during a break in the final rehearsals for the work. "I'm really happy doing it again, and I'm working with some really, really great actors."
Minjares has spent the time away from the theater focusing on his businesses: Pepito's Restaurant and the Parkway Theater.
"The theater has really hog-tied my time. I bought it five years ago. I've been trying to revive it as a cinema and also establish a name for itself as a good live-event venue. The theater business has taken a lot more time than I had expected, but it is coming around," Minjares says.
The trip back to acting started with a call from Mixed Blood founder Jack Reuler, who thought Minjares would be ideal for the play's central character, David Martin. "He's a guy who started a business when he was a young man, and built up this huge entity that is now controlled by stock holders. He feels it is time to cash out, but he hasn't done it a real legal way. He's been stealing from the company, and he wants to skip town. But he has to face the truth of what he created was built around the sacrifices of his family."
It's a story that Minjares can relate to. "I would assuage my guilt about not being there for my kids by buying them things, but that's not the same as being there," he says. "That's a dilemma that a lot of men, and now more women, face. The play addresses the importance of being a parent, and how material things don't mean much to a kid. One of the saving graces for me is that I was able to reconnect with my kids. I could stop and regroup and establish more of a bond with them."
Minjares's character "is trying to make up for lost time in just one day." That, however, needs
to be done outside of material items.
"Looking back, the times that were most valuable to me were not waking up with the new bicycle under the Christmas tree. It was when my dad would talk to me, or we would be in the car and he would tell me stories about history, or stories about the war, or stories about his dad. It's those memories that carry you through. You can't pass along a bicycle," he says.
The production features a strong cast, including Sally Wingert as the family matriarch, along with Ansa Akyea, Laura Esposito, Rolando Martinez, Mo Perry, Rose Le Tran, and Ricardo Vázquez. "The whole cast is really good. It makes me really proud to be an actor. I sometimes walk out of rehearsal and wonder if I'm worthy to be there with them."
Returning to acting has been like "riding a bike. If you are off a bike for a couple of years, the first few blocks are shaky. I'm feeling better today than when we started the process," Minjares says.
Though there are serious issues at play in Crashing the Party, the piece is first and foremost a comedy. "I want them to have fun and see a funny play. I don't think it's going to change anyone's life, but they can come and see a great cast and a silly play, and a really quick hour and a half," he says.
IF YOU GO:
Crashing the Party
Mixed Blood Theater 1501 S. Fourth St., Minneapolis
Friday through March 4
Free, first-come, first-served basis (seats may be reserved for $15)
For information, call 612.338.0937 or visit online