Route 19 will turn into something of a roving stage on Saturday, Nov. 16, as actors travel the corridor, stopping along the way to perform skits and invite dialogue in an innovative and interactive performance called Bus Stop Theater.
The goal: engage the public, planners and others working in North Minneapolis in a unique conversation about the issues facing the community, including transportation.
“It’s a different and fresh way to open up a dialogue about what needs to happen in North Minneapolis and to hear from people who actually live there,” said Greta Ogelsby, Bus Stop Theater’s playwright and director.
Four high school students who live in North Minneapolis or take classes at Capri Theater serve as the cast. Through skits, they will tell the fictional story of four siblings who live in the neighborhood and want to make positive changes in the community.
The first scene begins at 1 p.m. at 44th Street North and Penn Avenue North. The audience will then travel south on Route 19, stopping at Broadway Avenue, Plymouth Avenue and Olson Memorial Highway for additional performances. At each location, community members will be invited to react to the issues that are being addressed in the skits. After the performances are done, a follow-up dialogue will be held at Victory 44, 2203 N. 44th Ave.
Ashley Hanson came up with the idea for the mobile performance through her work with the Creative CityMaking initiative. A partnership between the city and Intermedia Arts, Creative CityMaking brings artists into the planning process to increase community interaction.
Hanson said she has orchestrated walking and paddling theater performances before but that this is the first time she’s seen theater and public transportation combined. Bringing the discussion into the environment makes the issues much more tangible and real, she said.
“Instead of sitting in a room and looking at a map, people are breathing the air and interacting with the landscape, which to me is just a much more human experience than the sort of Sim City approach of looking at a map and saying, ‘This is what we want here,’” Hanson said.
Metro Transit is currently working with Hennepin County and Minneapolis on the Penn Avenue Community Works Project, focused on a range of issues in the Penn Avenue corridor between Interstate 394 and the intersection of Osseo Road and 49th Avenue North. Penn Avenue has also been identified as a future Arterial Bus Rapid Transit corridor where bus enhancements could improve service.
Metro Transit's Community Outreach Coordinator Jill Hentges and Katie Roth, a project manager in the BRT/Small Starts Project Office, will attend Bus Stop Theater and listen for ways transit can help realize the community’s vision. Though there will be plenty of outreach surrounding future transit and BRT planning in North Minneapolis, Roth said it’s important to find untraditional ways of connecting with residents and customers in the corridor.
“Not all of our bus riders come to meetings so we need to go where people are,” she said.
> Route 19: Buses and blossoms on Penn Avenue
> Bus Stop Theater performance debuts Saturday, Nov. 16, along Penn Avenue
Photo: The Bus Stop Theater cast, from left: Roy Richardson, Jr., Amir Trotter, Greta Oglesby, Tyrone Gill and Zaria Graham