From Artistic Director Jack Reuler

Posted on June 21, 2015

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June is a month in which many artistic directors and theatre staffs recuperate, take stock, assess successes and challenges, and recharge their batteries to do it again. Are seasons part of a continuum or a series of curated programs that strategically are placed between Labor Day and Memorial Day? Hopefully the latter. Is invention spurred by an evolving aesthetic and world view or by a diagnosable need for change by someone who has curated a myriad seasons?

Mixed Blood’s 2014-15 season was perhaps the most rewarding of its 39. Those rewards came in a plethora of ways.

The art of an Artistic Director is producing. Opening was the Rolling World Premiere of Andrew Hinderaker’s colossal Colossal, with its cast of 22 (led by the amazing quadriplegic actor Toby Forrest) and 65-minute length, realized mission five times over, reconfigured our flexible space in new ways, wowed audience with its human insights and athletic spectacle, and introduced me to the face of the future of the American theatre – director Will Davis.

In the first show with an all-white cast in Mixed Blood’s history, Taylor Mac’s inspiring Hir, tackled the death of the white male power structure in what I hope will be among the last family show in this theatre’s history. Niegel Smith’s delicate touch and personal lens allowed it to accomplish triumphantly Mixed Blood’s core value to be “predictably unpredictable.”

Living in a neighborhood that is predominantly East African and Muslim, we offered a series of four plays about Africans and Muslims in America with the best African-born theatre artists in the country. Fantastic on-stage people like Owiso Odera, Irungu Mutu, Mohamed Yabdri, Ansa Akyea, Antu Yacob, Aaliyah Habeeb and more performing shows by Seema Sueko, Yussef El-Guindi, and others allowed us to test a theory on better ways to engage with our neighbors.

Katori Hall’s Pussy Valley premiere surprised audiences and reminded me of the greatness of director Nataki Garrett, the daring nature of Minnesota audiences, and the value of Radical Hospitality. It was the ideal punctuation for a season that could have sunk this venerable ship, but instead defined its buoyancy.

Playwright Aditi Kapil and I spent years developing the initiative Disability Visibility and launched it in May to try to transform the relationship of the American theatre to disability. Our touring program added Syl Jones on-stage interactive video game Stars and Stripes, directed by the amazing Randy Reyes, in collaboration with the odd bedfellow of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.

Our involvement with the National New Play Network deepens annually and the addition of NNPN Producer in Residence Addie Gorlin complemented that of her predecessor Jamil Jude, allowing the organization to soar with a staff of seven people in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 60’s.

Our social media presence gave Mixed Blood narrative and character that connected our think-globally-act-locally mindset to a larger world. Radical Hospitality continues to prove that barriers to participation in live theatre can be overcome. A major gifts campaign, considered and planned for two decades began in earnest and construction on our 130 year old firehouse began at long last. If theaters sometimes get in the way of theater making, this new facility should allow us to convene the disparate peoples that our mission dictates.

In my 20’s I celebrated at season’s end that I simply had stayed out of jail for challenging the status quo. In 2015 I am humbled by the people who surround the organization and their commitment to its world view: neighbors, audiences, artists, board, funders and donors, policy makers, colleagues across the country, and so many more.

Randy Reyes now runs Mu. Sarah Bellamy now runs Penumbra. Sarah Rasmussen now runs The Jungle. Joe Haj now runs The Guthrie. People look at me with unspoken questions about my plans for next steps in life. The remarkable Twin Cities and American theatre is evolving and I, for one, can’t wait to see where it’s heading and be part of it. I ain’t goin’ nowhere. The best is yet to come.

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