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Tea & Talk at Minnetrista is an opportunity for those who want to be lifelong learners! The meetings are a time to gather with friends and listen to a presentation on subjects as wide-ranging as art criticism, local history, and environmental studies. While enjoying delicious catered hors d’oeuvres and tea, attendees will have the opportunity to hear from experts specialized in their various fields.
Minnetrista Theatre Preserves presents May Tea & Talk and In My Hands, In My Heart
In 2017, Minnetrista prepared to release a museum theatre piece addressing a particularly complicated item from our collection. The unsanctioned 1920s Ball jar, made after hours by workers at the Ball Brothers factory, is embossed with Ku Klux Klan imagery. We wanted to draw attention to the item in an effort to inspire community dialogue around our history and current events. But before we acted, we paused for perspective and realized we were missing something.
For many historical objects, there is straight-forward narrative, the story as it is known and told. What happens when the official story is no longer useful, or worse, has become offensive and tone-deaf? A true understanding of history requires more than one voice, a polyphonic perspective. If museums hope to maintain relevance, we must include previously underrepresented narrative perspectives.
In order to tell this story, we knew we needed to get the right people around the table. We knew that there were workers of color in the factory where the jar was made. We needed their voices. We also wanted a level of authenticity in the writing that our current museum theatre staff could not bring to the table. We reached out to a colleague, Aaron Bonds, to write this piece and he was on board.
We also approached experts in history, scholars versed in discussion around equity, diversity, and inclusion. We were able to assemble a very robust advisory panel.
The original theatre piece “Workingman’s Responsibility” was created in 2009. At first it still seemed relevant and appropriate. Upon reflection and input from trusted colleagues, it became apparent that the interpretation was missing important perspectives. This realization kicked off a yearlong redevelopment process that included new research and audience testing. The end result was a brand new Minnetrista Theatre Preserves piece entitled: “In My Hands, In My Heart.”
The performance tells the story of two young men (one Caucasian and one African-American) working at the Ball Canning Jar Factory in 1928. Each of these young men makes a terrifying discovery as they clean the factory floor: a jar molded with the crest of the Ku Klux Klan. Each man must consider whether he should destroy the jar, hide it, or report it to his supervisor.
“In My Hands, In My Heart” opened in November of 2018 and was set to have its last performance in May of 2020. It was, unfortunately, cut short, because of public health concerns. However, over the course of its nearly 2 year run and nearly 3 year project life, its audiences were people of different ages, ethnicities, education levels, and socioeconomic statuses. A major source of pride for this project was that after every performance audience members shared with us that they were able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.