Mixed Blood Theatre's CENTER OF THE MARGINS, exploring the complex world of disability, returns this season as a mini-festival with three staged readings running in rep with fully-mounted productions of NEXT TO NORMAL, the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama with music about one family's struggle with mental illness, and THEORY OF MIND, about advantages and challenges of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Last year, the showcase broke new ground as it presented plays with content and themes about disability, with central characters with disabilities, and with roles for actors with disabilities. Today, Mixed Blood announced the mini-festival line-up, which includes Andrew Hinderaker's COLOSSAL, an original work about spinal cord injury; John Belluso's A NERVOUS SMILE, a social satire about parents of children with cerebral palsy; and CYRANO, a re-imagined adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, by Stephen Sachs, performed in ASL and spoken English. The Center of the Margins mini-festival is on stage Saturday and Sunday, October 20th through 21st and Saturday and Sunday, October 27th through 28th and features a triple bill each day.
A NERVOUS SMILE, a dark comedy of moral complexity in which three parents of teens with cerebral palsy are exhausted from the unrelenting demands of caregiving. Playwright John Belluso, a person with a disability who died at age 36, reflects on the burden he perceived himself to be on those responsible for his care. A NERVOUS SMILE ponders a wealth of ideas around the technology, morality and economics surrounding disability and calls attention to the intersection of disability and class via a brutal portrait of love, lust and despair. It is directed by Sharon Walton.
In COLOSSAL, a star football player for the University of Texas-and a young man in love with his teammate-shatters his spine during a career-ending game. Now, in a wheelchair-and left without the man and game he loves-this athlete struggles to move forward and not simply live in a more vibrant past. Structured like a football game (and featuring live dancing, drumming and a fully-padded cast), COLOSSAL is destined to be an epic event that simultaneously celebrates and chastises football, our nation's most popular form of theater. It is directed by Jamil Jude.
In CYRANO, a brilliant deaf poet falls hopelessly in love with Roxy, a beautiful hearing woman who loves poetry. But Roxy doesn't understand sign language and instead loves Cyrano's hearing brother, Chris. Can Cyrano express his love to Roxy with his hands or must he teach Chris to woo her, to "speak his words" for him? ASL becomes the language of love in this new spin on a classic love story, performed to be understood by all audiences-hearing and deaf-at all times. It is directed by Simon Levy.
THEORY OF MIND centers around a college-bound 17-year old with Asperger's Syndrome. He is equipped with scholastic brilliance but low emotional intelligence, keen self-awareness yet an inability to read social cues, and a charming directness yet prone to taking everything literally. His outing with a young woman becomes a memorable, insightful look at the tugs, shifts, and about-faces found on the autism spectrum. Written by Ken LaZebnik, who wrote Mixed Blood's On the Spectrum and Vestibular Sense, THEORY OF MIND is not a primer on autism, a catalogue of family turmoil or a list of treatment options, but rather a sensitive yet unsentimental portrait of a young adult on the autism spectrum. It is directed by Jack Reuler.
NEXT TO NORMAL reveals one family's struggle with mental illness through the story of Diana, a mother battling bipolar disorder. Her kaleidoscope of feelings-anger, yearning, sorrow, guilt and the memory of what must have been love-coexist in every note in this powerhouse of muscular grace and operatic force. Unflinchingly honest yet still hopeful, NEXT TO NORMAL is a feel-everything musical that packs a seismic emotional punch with the electric momentum of a heavy metal concert, the lyricism of a music box and the twanging heartbreak of a country ballad. Directed by Jack Reuler.
NNEXT TO NORMAL opens October 5 and runs through November 11 in the Alan Page Auditorium of Mixed Blood's historic firehouse theatre at 1501 S. 4th St., Minneapolis. The Center of the Margins mini-festival is on stage Saturday and Sunday, October 20-21 and Saturday and Sunday, October 27-28 and features a triple bill each day. All performances will have projected supertitle captioning and all performances of Cyrano will be performed in American Sign Language (ASL).