Minneapolis Theater Project

A partnership with Bedlam Theatre to adapt a traditional Oromo (East African) folktale into a family friendly play, performed by young and elder Oromo actors at the Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis Theater Project
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See what people had to say about this project!

"I believe more programs such as this help aid in connecting communities both together and strengthening relationships between individuals."

"It was wonderful to connect with students in understanding the history of Oromia through theater."

"I would love to support cultural heritage in the Twin Cities and am happy MN provides opportunities such as these."

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Read an excerpt of the play "Oromiya's Return" by Jerrie Steele.

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"Oromiya's Return" is an original short play by Jerrie Steele, inspired by the book "Once Upon a Time in Oromiya (Sheeko Sheeko): An East African Traditional Folktale" told by Lina Abdulaya and her family, with illustrations by Janet Curiel. The play was commissioned by the Minnesota Historical Society in partnership with Bedlam Theatre. The project emerged following a series of conversations with Oromo community members in Minneapolis, staff at Bedlam who’d worked on other theatrical projects with the community, and Curiel, an ELL teacher who’s worked closely with Oromo people for many years. All felt that Oromo people, stories, and traditions needed more visibility within and beyond the community; the play was a perfect vehicle. The project took several months to complete, including community readings of the play in production, recruitment of youth and elders to perform the play, and close work with a local interpreter and community figure who also helped to publicize the play’s premiere.

The 30 minute play is set long ago in the land of Kush, modern day Oromiya in Ethiopia. After the death of Grandfather, a wealthy Oromo family loses everything, including each other, but a special gift from the Kush river spirit and Gadaa brings them together again.
The premiere was hosted by the Mixed Blood Theatre, and included a feedback session following the play, food, family activities, music and dance.  
Youth Participants: Amatulla, Badru, Chaltu, Faara, Geehan, Hamdi,  Ifrah, Mahira, Wako, Yaasmeen, Yahya
Adult Participants: Gaada Ahamd, Aga Ayana, Galata Degago, Jamal Hassan, Ertra Namarra
For more information: Contact Project Manager Aleah Vinick at aleah.vinick@mnhs.org or 651-259-3417.

Background on the Bedlam Theatre
Bedlam Theatre was founded in 1993 by a group of artists to create original theater with a social conscience and explore collaborative ways of working. In 1996, they established Bedlam Studio in the West Bank neighborhood as a factory of imagination in Minneapolis’ historic theater district. By 2000 it had evolved into an experimental performance box that served as the center for the invention of new work by Bedlam as well as theater, dance, puppet and performance artists from the Twin Cities and beyond. Though they lost their least in 2010, they bring performances on location and continue to develop the vision and explore the opportunities for Bedlam’s next physical location. 

Background on the Mixed Blood Theatre
Mixed Blood Theatre has invited the global village into its audience and onto its stage for its unique brand of provocative, inclusive, and predictably unpredictable theater since 1976. With programming in its historic firehouse in Minneapolis, in satellite venues throughout the Upper Midwest, and in the national workplace, Mixed Blood leads audiences to a much larger world, using relevant and entertaining theater to spawn a ripple effect of social change.

Resources on Minnesota Immigration
The Minnesota Historical Society website, "Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees," makes available oral histories of recent immigrants to Minnesota. The goal of this project is to extend the reach of these materials to a broader audience, to support community building, and to help sustain cultural identity.

Project Details

Date: January 2012 - April 2012
Partner(s): Andi Cheney, Maren Ward, Bedlam Theatre; Janet Curiel; Jerrie Steele; Aleah Vinick, Minnesota Historical Society, Project Manager
Location: Minneapolis, MN

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