A double shot Friday


Broken English, Mother Tongue

Javier Morillo bends toward us

Granted, sixty minutes is not enough time for anyone to deliver a life story.  In his one–man show “Broken English, Mother Tongue,” Javiar Morillo gives it a go – and accomplishes more than he intended.  

Born in Panama in the early 1960’s, Morillo is proud to identify as Puerto Rican - - and offers his Fringe Festival audience an opportunity to examine and know him.  Morillo, who might be a stranger to many of us, is well known to labor leaders, human rights activists and storytellers throughout Minnesota.

An adjunct professor at theHumphrey School of Public Affairs, Morillo is president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26, which represents janitors, private security officers and other service workers. 

On stage at Mixed Blood Theatre, Morillo makes only two claims; to be the son of his “Mami" (spanglish for 'mom'), which he says without blushing, and a somewhat baffled Puerto Rican historian. By the time you read this, Morillo will have honed his presentation to a fine-tuned theatrical event.  Friday night was not his best. 

His wardrobe seemed cumbersome.  His staging (an overstuffed, leather chair) too far from his audience.  The technical devices he relied upon failed and he often seemed to not know where to place himself on stage.  He lost track of his narrative several times – and his audience knew it – Fringe goers are savvy.  But here’s the thing.  In spite of all the fumbles and faux pas, they forgave him.  

The guy inspires trust.  Javier Morillo is adorable.

“The theme of this,” he said, “is ‘what it means to be Puerto Rican.’”  

His audience knew better. 

Morillo revealed more about himself than he knows.  A vulnerable, brilliant, natural teacher – and his theme is this; willhe integrate all the parts of his past in order to face his future with intention and courage?  Will he rise to his potential? 

Growing up around the world, educated at Yale and always grounded in the simple poverty of his ancestors, Morillo carries many obligations on his graceful frame.  Many people – union members, family members – depend upon his sober, straight assistance.  It was clear to his Friday night audience that Morillopossesses the talent necessary to rise and succeed. 

But does he know this about himself? 

Does he trust his own talent?  Can he pull it all together and become the thought leader, decision maker, educator and artistic voice he yearns to be? 

See the show – decide for yourself.  

If you go, don’t expect a tale with a beginning, middle and end. This storyteller is far too complex to deliver so simple an experience. 

Sit in the front row.  Give yourself up to the experience.  

When you exit, take a moment to say a prayer for his “Mami,” still alive, still his first love. And wish Javier well as he carves out second half of his remarkable life.  


Meri Golden Shines in Revolt of the Beavers

An authentic rabble rouser leads beavers to equality 

A cast of ten and a crew of six bring Revolt of the Beavers to life at Mixed Blood Theatre. 

Adapted from a controversial play written during the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the original version was a children’s play by Louis Lantz and Oscar Saul. (Saul gained some fame for his screenplay adaptation of Tennessee William’s Streetcar Named Desire and screenplays Major Dundee and The Silencers.)  

First produced through the Federal Theatre Project, a part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the play faced wide criticism for its radical interpretation of the political, economic and social systems that brought about the collapse of the economy during the Great Depression.  

The adaptation at Mixed Blood flashes the same kind of sedition as the original. The cast is fabulous, diverse, with melodramatic comedic timing and a script adapted by talented playwright and theatre critic, Kit Bix. 

Bix has crafted a thoughtful, clever play in which adorable furry animals organize against their ruthless, money-grubbing boss – and teach us all a lesson in unity, sharing and care.

At the center of the play is a Minnesota theatre legend and closeted leftie; Meri Golden. 

Many of us recognize Golden for her tenure as professor of theatre at Inver Hills Community College.  

Others remember when – in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s - Golden and her husband of many decades (Tom Homme) - created the street theatre activist company Alive and Trucking. The company consisted of politically motivated musicians, jugglers, dancers, singers and actors who shook the cities with their civilly disobedient theatrical antics, an early form of political resistance. 

In those days, Americans all across the nation, from every class and race demonstrated openly against the United States involvement in the Vietnam war. Here, in the Twin Cities, Golden and Homme were activist pioneers.  No one could ignore the dramatic, important disruption caused by Alive and Trucking, fueled and inspired by Golden’s courageous talent and endless energy. 

Seeing Golden in Revolt of the Beavers satisfies many old “lefties” in this town. When the original production of Revolt of the Beavers opened in 1935 in New York City, Republican congressmen were so offended by the political message implied, they worked aggressively to shut it down.

The House on Un-American Activities Committee was convened to investigate the communist, socialist origins of the play.  As a consequence, the playwrights were censored.  The show was banned, and the Federal Theatre Project was discontinued.  

Bix’s version is lighter – more entertaining – and delicious as it invites the audience to resist. 

Messages abound as the characters encourage audience members to organize, advocate for one another, confront the oppression that threatens to destroy them and vote. 

Thirty percent of the profits from this play are donated to the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Go.  See this play. 

You won’t be sorry. 


Edited to reflect incorrect use of the word "Mommy" instead of "Mami"

Headshot of Kristine Holmgren
Kristine Holmgren

Kristine Holmgren is a produced Minnesota playwright - but you may remember her earlier career as a columnist for the Star Tribune and elsewhere.