Choosing Story

We asked creative directors to tell us why they chose to bring particular stories to the stage.

Signe Harriday: Three-dimensional revolutionaries

In fall 2018, “Agitators” at Park Square Theatre took us on a journey of nearly a half century, grounded in the relationship between two remarkable leaders [Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass] that spanned the Civil War and the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which gave African American men the right to vote. The play speaks to the power of people, and gives us an opportunity to connect more meaningfully with the struggles, the betrayals, and the victories of Anthony, who sparked the women’s movement, and Douglass, who sparked the civil rights movement.

I love that this story is told by two actors [Mikell Sapp and Emily Gunyou Halaas] who take on the challenge of filling these iconic shoes as they traverse time and space. Their transformations give us a chance to consider our own. I love stories that illuminate the past in a way that asks us to ponder the agency we have in the present moment. 

As a Black woman, I know the importance of representation. These stories represent my passion to position the narratives of often silenced voices.

Wendy Knox: Justice or Revenge?

In fall 2018, Frank Theatre staged Durrenmatt’s 1956 tragicomedy “The Visit.” While this classic play is recognized as the story of a town that sells its soul for a bailout, staging the work at this time also echoes the #MeToo movement. 

Claire Zachanassian returns to the small village where, as a pregnant teen, she was run out of town when the father denied paternity and rigged the trial against her. Now, as the richest woman in the world, she offers the town and each of its citizens boatloads of cash to rectify the situation, raising the question — what is justice and what is revenge? 

Photo by Sarah Whiting

Lisa Marie Brimmer: Origin Stories

I chose to tell origin stories about the way our cultures, ourselves, our solidarities, can and do come into being. As a queer, black, transracial adoptee, my existence is politically and culturally misunderstood. I’m asking myself the question, “How can I use this experience as a tool?” 

I am the artistic consultant for Family Tree Clinic, and am working with Queer, Transgender, Black, Indigenous, People of Color (QTBIPOC) community artists on a workshop series that culminates with creative writing. This series, “Where does your healing come from?” is funded by the Minnesota State Arts Board and is a response to real conversations held by Family Tree Clinic and its clients. 

Photo Sarah Whiting

Barbara Brooks: Bias and Consent

All shows at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company are rooted in Jewish content and explore differences between people of varying backgrounds, illuminate commonalities, and seek to foster greater understanding. 

“What I Thought I Knew,” which ended its run in August 2018, is the story of a Jewish woman in her 40s who was told years prior that she could never become pregnant. Yet she finds out, after many months of medical tests, that she is well-along in her pregnancy. Based upon true events, this heartfelt journey looks at problems in the health care system. 

Rhiana Yazzie: Coming of Age

In 2018, we headed into the celebration of New Native Theatre’s tenth anniversary season, and opened it with a new play I produced written by playwright Blossom Johnson. Her play, “Shimasani,” centers the voice of a Navajo woman coming of age. It follows her journey from adolescence to adulthood, with the strong influence of her grandmother. Both characters are not the usual sort of character that mainstream audiences are accustomed to when they see Native women on stage and screen. The characters are both nuanced in their Navajo cultural world view and deeply contemporary. 

Elena Giannetti: Gender Stereotypes

In 2018 I told stories that fought the stereotype that women are complete only if they are married and/or have children. In “If/Then,” alternating storylines acknowledge that there are many paths to personal fulfillment. 

Later, I returned to a Shakespeare play I directed a few years ago. I looked at it through the lens of the #MeToo movement. My intent is to ensure that the women in this version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” defy societal expectations that they are to be silent about their bodies, power, and place. 

Sarah Rasmussen: Identity and Responsibility

At the Jungle Theater, I’m committed to gender parity on and off stage.

These days, it feels like a radical act to gather together, turn off our cell phones and imagine, laugh, and connect. It also feels radical to find opportunities to put women in charge of a room and at the heart of a story. It delights me to give women the opportunity to engage with comedy. There is a reason we still don’t have major female late night hosts — there is a lot of power in who gets to tell the jokes. 

Photo Simon Pauly

Louisa Muller: Empathy

I partnered with Minnesota Opera in telling the story of Violetta, a woman who bravely fights to determine her own destiny in the face of her impending death and a society dominated by men who both worship and condemn her. 

At its premiere more than 150 years ago, “La Traviata” was considered immoral because its protagonist was a so-called “fallen woman.” We are in no less need today of stories that move us to empathy and respect for those making choices in a world that offers very few.

Anne Bertram: Focus on Women

All of the productions at Theatre Unbound address the problem of gender bias in theatre. Statistics show that only 20 percent of the work on the American stage is written or directed by women. An even smaller percentage of shows feature women lead characters who drive the story.