Reflection: A Summer Intern’s Time at Mixed Blood

Posted on September 17, 2012

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Avery Glassman served as a community outreach intern this summer for Mixed Blood

For our entire history, Mixed Blood has relied upon the help of our talented and committed core of volunteers and interns. Serving in a variety of capacities, our volunteers and interns are given a lot of responsibility and are allowed full access to our processes.

This summer we, once again, were able to provide a summer home for a talented, young, and highly motivated core of interns. In this post, one of our interns, Avery Glassman, shares her thoughts on a Mixed Blood internship. We thank Avery, and the entire intern team, for their time and dedication to Mixed Blood this summer. We are always looking for great volunteers and interns (and we already have a great Fall group hard at work!). If interested in volunteering at Mixed Blood, please email Community Outreach Manager, Jill Michaelree.

            Three times a week this summer I got off at the Cedar-Riverside lightrail station and walked to Mixed Blood Theatre. It’s a short walk, only a block and a half, but there is plenty to observe. To your right looms Riverside Plaza, which consists of several concrete high-rises. Nicknamed “The Towers” and vaguely reminiscent of one of Mondrian’s gloomier works, these apartment buildings dominate the skyline like a monster robot on the loose in a science fiction movie. As you walk by your eye will pick up on a variety of floral and geometric patterns. These are the couches, each one positioned in the same spot of every unit, against the main window.

To your right is the Coyle Community Center. The dominant structure here (besides the downtown Minneapolis skyline in the distance) is a colorful playground and jungle gym in the form of a tree house. In the late afternoon it is always full of kids. Little girls fly high on the swing set, their hijabs flapping in the air. The vast majority of residents in The Towers are Somali-Muslim; the Coyle Center is primarily theirs, and it is constantly in use.

This is Mixed Blood’s geographical community, but also part of its professional community. Mixed Blood lives next door to The Towers in a quirky old building that was a firehouse in the early twentieth century. With many irregularities and a charming shabbiness to it, the firehouse’s unassuming brick walls, which resemble none of the surrounding architecture, do not let on that the work done inside reaches far beyond the property limits. Not only does Mixed Blood work with the Cedar-Riverside community, it also has initiatives to involve and engage with the Twin Cities’ Latino community and with Minnesotans who have disabilities—that in addition to its general effort to get more people to see more kinds of theater. The theater’s programming revolves around much more than its productions.

I did not know what to expect as an intern at Mixed Blood this summer. I had never seen the managerial side of a theater company, let alone one with as specific a social agenda as Mixed Blood. Officially I was a “community outreach intern,” but I figured there was still a risk that I could end up doing coffee-fetching and data entry. Yet on the first day I was given three scripts to read and analyze for potential target audiences, I sat down with one of the artists in residence as well as one of the Cedar-Riverside community liaisons, and met in a group with the other interns and the Managing Director. That Wednesday I attended the weekly staff meeting, as I would continue to do throughout the summer, and the next week I sat in on the quarterly Disability Advisory Council and the bi-monthly board meeting. No aspect of the organization was closed off from the interns; this is just one example of the trust cultivated at Mixed Blood, a trust also granted to Mixed Blood’s audiences as demonstrated by the provocative, challenging, “address-yourself” material that comprises Mixed Blood’s season year after year.

The entire time I worked at Mixed Blood I felt treated like an equal whose input was valued and whose presence was included. It has made me realize that no matter what an organization does to combat systemic oppression publicly, if it does not treat the people working directly for it with care and respect it hasn’t accomplished much in the name of social justice or humanitarianism. Yet what I value most about my experience at Mixed Blood is how frequently the staff broached the big picture in conversations (about casting, grant writing, fundraising) which could easily have taken a more trivial route. The questions “Why do we choose these plays, and for whom do we intend them?” “How can we produce work that is being ignored in the mainstream without exploiting it?” “How do we make this specialized topic accessible to multiple perspectives?” were brought up continuously and discussed intelligently. These are delicate queries with hardly a universal answer, but by working together in a collective environment with diverse opinions, solutions can be forged. Such is the nature of Mixed Blood’s method.

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