ANIMATE: Mixed Blood meets Como Zoo and tackles trans-species social issues

With ANIMATE, Mixed Blood has outdone itself in terms of cool factor, wow performers and thoughtful social commentary. And that’s saying something! First, the stage is the Como Zoo. If that weren’t enough, the action starts with a helicopter landing right in front of the zoo. The actors include highlights from its 45 years of seasons. The crux of the social commentary revolves around a pitting the good for society against the good of the individual. The audience chimes in on that issue in a fun use of technology crowdsourcing.

The performance happens around the zoo with a tour through the polar bears, puffins, big cats, primates, seal stage and the tropical garden. We traveled in small groups through the stations at timed intervals. There’s a vignette at each station. A huge nod to the tech team that keeps the audio going throughout the campground and the hosts who walked us through. (Naturally Monica volunteered to help host and then found herself acting as bridesmaid in the wedding scene. Fun!)

It’s fun to see the animals at night. While they are ever-present the interaction with them is minimal. Tough to get a polar bear to hit his mark, I imagine. It was nice to see some folks experience the zoo for the first time or perhaps the first time in a long time. As we walked, we talked about social implications of keeping animals in zoos – and then found issue up on the next stage, mirroring the conversations we were already having.

The action in the play spans the course of an exciting day at the zoo. They are about to launch a exhibit to save the rhinos, funded by an 82 year old philanthropist who managed to get caught (on the same day) making racist comments. Not straightforward remarks said to take someone down; they are insidious remarks that demonstrate a deep seeded sense of white/male supremacy. The kind of comments that make people say (as he writes a check) – well he’s 82. These comments were made publicly and now protestors on our their way to stop the launch. There are couple of parallel stories who raise similar multifaceted social commentary questions including virtue signaling, what to do with “surplus animals” that outlive their peak ability to perform, save the species or save the people/animal and do animals feel/think like people.

I don’t want to spoil too much; the show is nearly sold out but if you are flexible and act now, you might pick up some of the remaining free tickets.

This is the world premiere of Ken LaZebnik’s play. Performers include  Sally Wingert, Jevetta Steele, Kevin Kling, Regina Marie Williams, Stephen Yoakam, Taj Ruler, Marquetta Senters, Raul Ramos, Khamara Pettus, Regan Linton, Bruce Young, Kate Fuglei, and with special cameos by Don Cheadle, Joe Minjares, and Warren C. Bowles. On a bittersweet note, the show is Jack Reuler’s final directing project, capping off 46 years of amazing performances. Again, he has outdone himself.

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