The audience is seated five minutes before game time, I mean showtime, with the sound of the drums and the football players' pre-show cheers. Mixed Blood's black box theater has been turned into a mini football field, with bleacher seats for the audience. Before the show, coach Stephen Yoakam puts eight strong, fit, athletic young men through a series of drills - catching, blocking, running - while an older man does yoga. For the first time I appreciated the athleticism of football; it's really quite beautiful in its own way, like a kind of a dance. The pre-show gives way to the start of the play, which is structured as four 15 minute quarters, with the time counted down on the scoreboard. One of the most remarkable things about this production is that the scenes end exactly on time. If they go too fast, there's dead air while we wait for the clock to run down. Too slow and they run out of time. But that never happened. And despite the short run time and the presence of the ticking clock, nothing feels rushed, there are still quiet moments of stillness filled with emotion. The logistics of the whole thing work like clockwork, but the artistry of the story is never sacrificed.
|Mike (Toby Forrest) and the team|
|a pre-injury Mike (Torsten Johnson) is flying high|
I'm apparently one of the few Americans who doesn't like football (I haven't attended a game since high school, when I was forced to because I was in the marching band, hence my hope to see a marching band at halftime). But this play isn't about football. It's about a passion for something you love and sacrifice everything for, family that supports you no matter what, falling in love and making stupid decisions because of it, getting stuck in the past and having the courage to move past it, letting go of what was and embracing what is (aka "no day but today").
Don't expect to see me at a Vikings game anytime soon (or ever), but I do have a greater appreciation for the sport of football and its place in our culture, as well as the damage that it can cause. Whether you like football or not, head to Mixed Blood Theatre between now and November 9 to experience some truly unique theater. And you can't beat the price - all tickets at Mixed Blood are free thanks to their Radical Hospitality program (although donations are accepted, and advance reservations are $20).