It’s not everyday that one calls a theater a “mensch.” The definition of the word? “A person of integrity and honor,” the Yiddish coming from the German word for “human being.”
So why bestow that name on a theater? Because when I received the email from Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis announcing the launch of “Radical Hospitality,” their new program to provide no-cost admission to all mainstage productions for all audience members beginning with the upcoming 2011–12 season, that was the first and only word that came to mind. Well, that and WOW. And … a few swearwords I dare not repeat here.
Why is Mixed Blood offering ALL its shows for FREE? In their own words, the program is:
An expansion of the company’s egalitarian mission, Radical Hospitality erases economic barriers in pursuit of building a truly inclusive, global audience. Whether a long-time attendee, a new immigrant living in the theatre’s Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, a person with low income or disabilities, or someone who has never been to a play, he or she will be admitted free of charge to Mixed Blood.
In announcing plans for Radical Hospitality, Mixed Blood Artistic Director Jack Reuler said, “At Mixed Blood, who sits in the seats and stands in the lobby with you is as important as what is on stage. We have long juggled ‘who’ sees the shows with ‘how many’ see the show. Radical Hospitality allows us to balance this equation. In unprecedented ways, we are walking our talk with this season that showcases our inclusive mission and predictably unpredictable style.”
Reuler continued, “By revolutionizing access, we are challenging the traditional notions of cost, quality and value. Offering shows of the highest professional standards for no cost optimizes value.”
For those of you who haven’t been to Mixed Blood before to see a show, this is your opportunity to take your mother, sig other, and high school best friend. Maybe not at the same time though.
I have to admit, that as a recent returnee to the Twin Cities (moved away at 18, came back at 26), I did not see my first Mixed Blood show as an adult until I reviewed Avenue Q (by MOT co-creator, composer and writer Jeff Marx) at the theater in March. The performance was sensational (read my review) and not only far better than I expected, but better in many ways than the Broadway version I had seen of the same show at the Orpheum Theater downtown. I can’t promise you that every show will be as phenomenal as Mixed Blood’s Avenue Q, but the line-up for this season’s FREE shows looks awesome. Check it out.
Mixed Blood’s season begins September 16 with the “shockingly subversive and wickedly hilarious” NEIGHBORS. Called “a play that is moving and funny and energetic and uncomfortable in the best way” by LAist, the take-no-prisoners comedy offers a scathing exploration of race relations in America.
Next is Center of Margins, a festival exploring the complex world of disability through three disparate but complementary plays, on stage November 11-27. The festival includes Cori Thomas’ MY SECRET LANGUAGE OF WISHES, with Jevetta Steele and directed by Marion McClinton. Sparked by an adoption debate over an African American teen with cerebral palsy, the play delves into the meaning of love without boundaries. Also in the festival, Jack Reuler will direct Ken LaZebnik’s ON THE SPECTRUM, a world premiere Mixed Blood commission questioning whether autism is a disability or a difference; and a third play (title to be announced), featuring deaf actress Alexandria Wailes, will showcase “shadow signing.”
Another world premiere opens at Mixed Blood on February 10, 2012. In Josh Tobiessen’s CRASHING THE PARTY, acclaimed actor Sally Wingert plays the matriarch of a multi-generational family. As hardworking parents lavish their children with material things and leave them with nothing to work for, Crashing the Party dissects how aspirations can both inspire and derail futures.
The final show of the season is LEARN TO BE LATINA by comic playwright Enrique Urueta, opening April 20, 2012. The politics of ethnic and sexual identity take center stage in this winner of the national Great Gay Play Contest. Mercilessly off-color, the show offers a riotous take on cultural appropriation — and what makes a pop culture star.
So how does this FREE theater thing work?
There will be two ways to see a Mixed Blood performance:
- First come, first served admission: Audience members register online or in the lobby in advance of a performance (recommended 30 minutes) for no-cost admission on a first come, first served basis;
- Guaranteed admission: Audience members who want to guarantee entry can do so for a fee paid in advance online, either for a single performance or a season pass. Theater seating remains open (no assigned seats).
- Season passes are available now; online registration and guaranteed single admission reservations will begin in August.
As Dan Buettner explains in his book “Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zone’s Way,” experiencing cultural arts opportunities in our communities directly correlates to our happiness level. And, as we all know, getting things for free makes us super happy as well. So Mixed Blood’s new Radical Hospitality program isn’t just menschy; it’s a blessing for each of us, because who doesn’t need a little extra bounce in their step? So what are you waiting for? Mark your calendars for Mixed Blood’s next season and get ready for FREE THEATER!