BEST THEATER FOR DRAMA Minneapolis 2001 - Mixed Blood
Do we take this quarter-century-old theater for granted? We do, don't we? Nowadays, when directors frequently cast plays without regard to color (and sometimes gender), and when most local theater companies produce several plays per season that tell stories of diverse ethnic and cultural experiences, it is easy to forget how radical the Mixed Blood was when it first opened in 1976. Mixed Blood expanded the palate of local theatergoers, helping to create a performance scene in which diversity is not just welcome but expected. And all that would be well and good--hooray for history and all that--except for the fact that the Mixed Blood stubbornly refuses to become a historical anachronism. They still produce some of the most inventive plays offered in the Twin Cities. Because as diverse as we think we are, and as proud as we might become of having a hundred theater companies who all carry the word diversity in their mission statements, there are still stories that are not getting told, and the Mixed Blood has a keen way of finding them. Let us point to a few examples from recent seasons. Consider Zaraawar Mistry's adaptation of Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories, a production that drew heavily from the long tradition of oral storytelling found in the Arab world, but also offered a complex parable for Rushdie's own experience of living underground. Or the recent co-production of Rebecca Gilman's Spinning Into Butter, which told of a Vermont college torn apart by a single incident of racism. Or last year's Cut Flowers, which marked the playwriting debut of actor Gavin Lawrence. The play's setting inside a fancy floral shop provided unexpected rhythms--the patter of the urban black experience suddenly set to the constant chopping and binding of fresh flowers. Who else is telling this story? Nobody.