By Colleen Steppa, Theater Reviewer (Cover photo courtesy of Gallop Studios)
Home Street Home Minneapolis, now showing at the Guthrie, is a production of zAmya Theater Troupe that gives voice to Minneapolis’s homeless community. Written by Josef Evans and directed by Maren Ward the show gives us the stories of those with and without living side-by-side in downtown Minneapolis.
Musical nods to Prince, Tina Turner, and a few not-so-subtle jabs on Minnesota Nice soften the blows that punctuate the stories of the streets, inspired by those who call them home. Several simultaneous plots follow characters through their alarm bells at Salvation Army Harbor Lights to favorite corners, to the bus stop, to second or third jobs, to church, and to find somewhere safe to put the kids to sleep at night. Watch out for Simpsons-style sign puns, like the “Dunn Bein Homeless Brothers” coffee shop, or signs that read “Over Construction”, and plenty of other jokes in the form of song parodies. Be aware too, that this production is designed to encourage audience participation and discussion – there is little physical or emotional distance from the action. So if the idea of a character shaking your hand makes you squeamish, sit in the back rows.
Notable personnages include Albatross, a street poet who mixes with a yoga-pants-wearing Eden Prairie transfer while panhandling outside a coffee shop, and a mother-daughter duo who show the mathematical fallacy of a living wage as they try to scrap together enough for an apartment. Home Street Home Minneapolis is a theatrical piece that draws out our myths, politics, and personal biases towards the homeless in Minnesota as well as touching on the history of how we got there.
This production by zAmya Theater is a program of St. Stephen’s Human Services, led by Maren Ward, that is meant to give voice to homeless individuals and tell their stories to the public. St. Stephen’s Human Services is renowned for their judgement-free outreach efforts to engage with people in need in Minneapolis and. They publish the indispensable Handbook of the Streets – A Guide for Poor and Homeless People, famous amongst those that work in human services, which is designed to be handed out to those in need for quick reference on where to find clothing closets, shelters, meals, hospitals, and services.
zAmya Theater has presented several productions centering around themes of homelessness Minnesotans and the realities of poverty in the past 10 years and is currently showing another work called Skits & Pieces: Off the Streets, A zAmya Variety Showcase. Ward said of this project, “Meeting the immediate needs of people in crisis will save lives. If we want to unravel this crisis of homelessness, we must unravel the story. Theater can help us discover truth and perspective in each narrative.”
The ensemble of Home Street Home Minneapolis features Latimah Abdullah, Stayci Bell, Richard Brinda, Abby Driver, Cheryl Hare, Charles Hilton, Marvin Howard Lurch, Caroline Mannheimer, Esther Ouray, Wanda Poston, Laura Ross, Greg Tromiczak, Corey Walton, Don Walls and Arminta Wilson.
Other credit goes to Chris Lutter (Set Design), Heidi Eckwall (Lighting Design), Kristi Ternes (Costume Design),Peter Morrow (Sound Design), Leah Nelson (Choreography), Luther Eskridge (Musical Accompaniment), and Caroline Mannheimer and Richard Brinda (Original Songs).
Home Street Home Minneapolis plays thru September 25, in the Dowling Studio at the Guthrie. All tickets are $9 and are now on sale through the Guthrie Box Office at 612.377.2224, toll-free 877.44.STAGE, 612.225.6244 (Group Sales) and at www.guthrietheater.org.
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