Red Ink is Ready to Roll

Minneapolis’ Mixed Blood Theater Produces A Brand New Take on Contemporary Native Life from April 23 to May 10

By Arigon Starr
Photo's by Ann Marsden
News From Indian Country 4-09

Arigon Starr

A giant howdy from Minnesota. Despite all of my constant traveling, this is the very first time I’ve been in Minneapolis and I’m enjoying every minute of it. No, I haven’t abandoned Los Angeles.

It’s gig time again and this one is a doozy. A few years back, my playwright friend Rhiana Yazzie asked me to contribute a ten-minute play to a project she was developing with the Mixed Blood Theater. Those seeds have born fruit – and now “Red Ink” is in full production.

Yazzie relocated to Minneapolis from Los Angeles with a suitcase full of expectations. Like an Indigenous Mary Tyler Moore, she threw her playwright hat up into the air, ready to take on the challenge of putting Native stories on stage. Minneapolis has long had the reputation as one of the foremost hubs of Native American culture and activism. “I was excited to see so many Indian people everywhere,” she marveled. “What I didn’t realize until after being in Minneapolis for awhile is how invisible Native people are.”

Determined to uncover the rich heritage and culture we know is Native America, Yazzie has teamed with the Mixed Blood Theater and seven Indigenous playwrights to create “Red Ink,” a selection of short scenes highlighting contemporary issues, life and humor. Directed by Sarah Rasmussen, “Red Ink” will run at the Mixed Blood Theater from April 23 through May 10.

The featured playwrights include Yazzie, Tomson Highway, Diane Glancy, Drew Hayden Taylor, Yvette Nolan, Darren Renville and yours truly, Arigon Starr. The all-Native cast includes Cochise Anderson, Juanita Blackhawk, Clementine Bordeaux, Ernest Briggs, George Keller and well, me. I’ve also contributed several brand new musical numbers guaranteed to bring the house down.

 Part of the Cast of “Red Ink” – L-R: Juanita Blackhawk, George Keller, Arigon Starr (the floating head!) and Ernest Briggs.
Jack Reuler, the Artistic Director of the Mixed Blood Theater, started the theater company thirty-one years ago with the goal to honor the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King. The multi-racial company promotes cultural pluralism, individual equality and artistic excellence in its main stage, touring and customized corporate productions. Located near downtown Minneapolis, the theater has been bustling with activity for the past two weeks as the cast and crew assemble to create a top-notch show.

Last evening was the first run-through for all of the production personnel. Lighting and sound issues were discussed, as the costumers and set designers continued to keep the creative juices flowing.

Juanita Blackhawk, an Anishinabe elder, community activist and fellow cast member told me, “It’s been a number of years since a major theater production featuring Native people has been produced here in Minneapolis. There have been community shows – but nothing like ‘Red Ink.’ Rhiana convinced me to come down from my home on the White Earth Reservation. I wanted to be a part of a project that positively impacts community and has something important to say.”

One of the youngest cast members, Clementine Bordeaux, traveled from her home on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to be part of “Red Ink.” Bordeaux is also a costume designer for the production. She noted, “Back home, they don’t always encourage people to become artists or pursue a career in the arts. It’s exciting for me to be around people who actually make their living as actors, writers, designers.”

“Red Ink” has a powerful voice fueled by very opinionated writers. One of the mandates from Mixed Blood was for all of the playwrights to write as though the audience was completely Native. There’s a great amount of freedom to be had when you know you don’t have to explain frybread, a 49 or why some of us say “Aaay” all the time. Both of my pieces utilize humor, as do the plays from Rhiana Yazzie and Drew Hayden Taylor.

There’s everything from gaming to sovereignty to Natives in Hollywood in “Red Ink.” The show is a “Pow-Wow in a Theater” that utilizes contemporary and traditional music to underscore the action.

People are going to be talking about “Red Ink.” I can’t imagine a better way to make my Minneapolis theater debut. AAAY!

Tickets for “Red Ink” are on sale now. A list of the complete performances follows.

Red Ink Performance Schedule

Tickets: (612) 338-6131 or


Thurs., April 23 7:30PM $11
Fri., April 24 7:30PM $30
Sat., April 25 7:30PM $30
Sun., April 26 3:00PM $24

Wed., April 29 7:30PM $12
Thurs., April 30 7:30PM $22
Fri., May 1 7:30PM $24
Sat., May 2 7:30PM $30
Sun., May 3 3:00PM $24

Wed., May 6 7:30PM $12
Thurs., May 7 7:30PM $22
Fri., May 8 7:30PM $24
Sat., May 9 7:30PM $30
Sun., May 10 3:00PM $24

Access Night: May 7, 2009; 7:30PM

ASL Interpreted, Audio Described, and Captioned for the hearing impaired.