As live theater returns to the Twin Cities, Pillsbury House Theatre has announced in-person performances of What to Send Up When It Goes Down, a play that aims to make space for Black audience members specifically, although all are welcome (Sept. 18-28). It conveys the impact of anti-Blackness and Black healing by bringing together song, satire, audience participation, and vignettes. I was able to speak with some of the returning cast, who are excited to feel the energy of a live audience.
The play, written by Aleshea Harris and directed by Pillsbury co-artistic director Signe Harriday, previously ran in early July, when the show made its regional debut. It will take place in the Pillsbury House parking lot, with each performance capped at 50 audience members, who are encouraged to bring their own seating and wear masks.
Pillsbury House Theatre is a few blocks away from where George Floyd was killed. “Let that sit and resonate with you as an audience member,” says actor Mikell Sapp. “It happened right here in our community, and for this show to be done right here at Pillsbury House is great. I don’t think there is a better place.”
Sapp, who has worked with Pillsbury House for years, says he used to buy snacks before rehearsals at the corner store outside of which Floyd was pinned by police. “I used to always feel this weight after what happened,” he says, “and doing the show just meant the world to me.”
This is actor Derrick Mosley’s first performance at Pillsbury House. “Over the pandemic, I was struggling with being creative and, like many people, I went through all the different emotions,” Mosley says. “This show has given me a chance to be creative and to create with people I love and respect, and with everything going on in the world and in Minneapolis, I get to not only be a part of live theater returning, but it has served as personal healing to me.”
What should the audience expect? According to Mosley, “a lot of #UnapologeticallyBlack. People should be ready for a ritual, to embrace whatever emotions flow over you, and expect support and love from people physically there and all the ancestors spiritually around us.”
Tickets for What to Send up When it Goes Down, which is set to run September 18-28, are on sale now.