MINNEAPOLIS — Actress Naomi Ko portrays “Taylor Olson” in the upcoming production of “The Veterans Play Project” that will be presented by the Footprints Collective and Mixed Blood Theatre from Nov. 14-24 at Fort Snelling’s Base Camp, 201 Bloomington Rd, Fort Snelling, MN.
A talented company of professional actors, musicians, and Minnesota veterans, led by Director Leah Cooper, creates and performs an inspiring new play based on personal stories of veterans of all conflicts on all sides collected in years of story circles.
Opening shortly after Veterans Day, the production is a partnership inspired by stories gathered from more than 100 Minnesota military veterans. This new play tells the story of veterans and civilians living in the fictional small Midwest town of Smedley, facing the dilemma of how to honor the memory of those who have served from their community.
Taylor heads off to her first Army deployment, aspiring to be the first female Army Ranger in history, while her veteran father, haunted by his own Desert Storm memories, wishes she hadn’t signed up at all. Steve, a Korean War vet, is flanked by an unlikely gathering of vets, young and old, in an effort to “Occupy” his house and save it from foreclosure.
Robert, a Vietnam vet, brings a dark sense of humor to his sense of isolation and loss. Tim tirelessly works to recruit friends to his veterans’ choir. Kathy Olson, a social worker fights from within V.A. bureaucracy and community apathy to support fellow vets.
At the center of town and these stories is The Rock, a sacred site of battles past, haunted by ghosts and music. When a pair of filmmakers comes to town determined to turn the Rock into a Veterans Memorial, and make a blockbuster movie along the way, the whole town must decide what it means to honor military service.
The Veterans Play Project is performed by a talented cast of 20 actors and musicians, including 13 veterans and active military personnel.
Director Leah Cooper of the Footprints Collective spent five weeks in residence with the renowned Cornerstone Theatre in California in 2009. Motivated by its community-based theatre model, she brought the process back to Minnesota, and joined forces with Mixed Blood Theatre’s Jack Reuler to conceive this ambitious collaborative creation of a powerful new piece of theatre by and about Minnesota’s veterans.
“It has been inspiring and rewarding experience to see the huge leap of faith and courage this talented company of artists and military veterans has made together, to collaboratively make a play that is transformative and truthful, that goes right to the heart of what it means to be American, to serve, and to honor service. We are all so grateful for this experience, and very excited to share it with audiences,” says Cooper.
Artistic Director Jack Reuler heralds the drama: “The Veterans Play Project takes Mixed Blood’s pursuit of authentic voices and portrayals to new levels. As the sources of the stories, inspiration for the text, and on stage embodiment of the play’s characters, these active military and outspoken veterans bring an unprecedented veracity. For decades Mixed Blood and Cornerstone Theatre have had very different approaches in pursuit of parallel missions, so this opportunity to emulate their iconic methodology is an honor and superbly effective.”
The performers are (*denotes a veteran) Dawn Brodey, Matt Delaney*, Roger Ezell*, Mitch Lynn Fowler*, Lorelei Giddings*, William Hatton*, Erik Hoover, Charles Jones*, Diane Kinney*, Naomi Ko, Ariel Leaf, Jay Mastrud*, Nick Perlick*, Joel Raney*, Kirsten Stephens*, Rande Tomas*, Samuel Verdeja*, Maren Ward, Adam Whisner, and Joe Wiener.
The creative team includes Wendell Bell as sound designer, Alan Berks as script advisor, John Francis Bueche as set designer, Annie Cady as costume designer, Aaron Gabriel as composer & music director, Meghan Gunderson as assistant director, Wu Chen Khoo as lighting designer, Seán McArdle as props designer, Tamara Ober as movement designer, and Sarah Salisbury as props master.
A preview of The Veterans Play Project will be held on Thursday, November 14 at 7:30pm. The show opens on Friday, November 15 at 7:30pm and continues through Sunday, November 24. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm, with 3:00pm matinees on Sundays. All performances are at Base Camp, 201 Bloomington Rd at Fort Snelling, Minnesota.
There is a no-cost admission by registering for seats, and a guaranteed admission with a $20 fee online at www.mixedblood.com or by calling the box office at 612-338-6131. Free reserved admission and free round-trip cab rides to performances are available to the disabled.