In an old firehouse in the diverse, vibrant and artistic community that is the West Bank neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mixed Blood Theatre recently introduced a novel way to see a play. They call it Radical Hospitality. It means that any person can attend any mainstage production of theirs at no cost. A generous number of seats are held for free admission and are filled on a first come, first seated basis. Seating begins half an hour before curtain and, with this company’s reputation, you’d better believe there will be a line. (For those of you made a little nervous by uncertainty when you wish to attend the theater, you are still able to reserve tickets in advance for just $15.) It should be noted that no seats are assigned so free, or paid, you’d better get there on time.
Outrageous, right? Not any more outrageous than usual.
Mixed Blood’s very existence is a testament to wild thinking, so if anything this is just another symptom of the larger egalitarian dream state in which Jack Reuler (Founder and Artistic Director) and team live, scheme and play.
Once upon a time, a young man was faced with some unexpected downtime of about a year. Rather than merely looking around at his friends, smiling his most charming smile and yelling, “Party!” this young man decided to also start a theater company and revolutionize the way theater in America was made. He had a year, after all. While Jack Reuler may have been wrong about the time commitment, he was not incorrect about the scope of things Mixed Blood Theatre could accomplish.
Beginning with the then radical idea of ‘color blind’ casting and progressing to a place of embracing cultural pluralism and individual equality, Mixed Blood has taken its message on the road. Their educational tours began by bringing the stories of outstanding African Americans to schools throughout the region. Now they have broadened their touring works to include voices from Native American, Latino and Islamic perspectives.
Always seeking new methods to engage more people in the conversations of equality and positive change, Mixed Blood has constantly sought ways to achieve real accessibility for all to attend, engage in and create theater. Or to put it another way (from Mixed Blood’s website): ”Revolutionizing access is a core part of Mixed Blood’s vision. In pursuit of that goal, Radical Hospitality aims to: 1) Build relationships with those who have been traditionally underserved by the arts; 2) Eliminate real or perceived barriers to participation; and 3) Increase the number of Minnesotans participating in the arts.”
And so we find ourselves, nearing the end of Radical Hospitality’s first season. With just one more opportunity to say we were among the first to try out this outrageous new system: Learn to be Latina by Enrique Urueta and directed by Mark Valdez runs April 20–May 13, 2012 and is hailed as “Explosively funny, entertainingly offensive” by San Francisco Weekly. Sounds like a not to be missed experience to me. I’ll see you at the theater!