Take the stage to the streets

Former U student Toussaint Morrison’s play “Thursday Night” combines hip-hop with theater

by Sara Nicole Miller

Like other fine arts, theater sometimes has a tendency to get stuck in the past.

At least that’s what Toussaint Morrison, a recent University theater alumnus, observed during his experience as an undergrad.

“Thursday Night”
WHEN: 6 p.m. tonight, Feb. 15, Feb. 22, and 3 p.m. Sunday Feb. 11
WHERE: The Varsity Theater, 1308 4th St. S.E., Minneapolis
TICKETS: $12 General, $10 Students
Additional shows happening:
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday
WHERE: Weisman Art Museum, 333 E. River Rd., Minneapolis
TICKETS: $12 General, $10 Students

He became disillusioned with the constant regurgitation of what he calls “old dead white man plays” at Rarig. “You already have these archetypes painted out, and you have to succumb to it.” Sick of “being a BFA and being trapped in classical theater,” he wanted to steer away from the more traditional, dead theatrical forms that don’t reflect the magnitude and diversity of the human experience.

Morrison’s newest hip-hop theater production, “Thursday Night,” is based on stories and interviews by college students, in, out and around the Twin Cities area, “from the residence of 1301 to the north side of Minneapolis,” Morrison explains. The performance – which synthesizes dramatic vignettes with splices of spoken word, musical performances and jazz interludes – follows a group of interconnected students as they go about their day in preparation for the evening’s rowdy social events.

About three dozen actors make up the cast of “Thursday Night.” Most of the actors are students from local colleges like the University, St. Thomas and Augsburg.

This is as much a roadmap of Facebook culture as it is a cross-section of college-aged youth disillusioned with the current state of the world and the seeming futility of relationships within it. Through their interactions, the characters navigate subjects such as ethnic ambiguity, identity and modern relations.

Overindulgence runs rampant and philosophical inquiries occur about the Jesus-ness of hash browns at Al’s Breakfast. Ideas of what it means to be white, black, promiscuous or suburban become juxtaposed, and through goggles of substance abuse, sex and drinking culture, the performance weaves its way into a contemplative climax.

The performance is clever and genuinely entertaining, even in spite of its technological shortcomings. Its rich integration of local geography and University culture into the script paints an authentic portrait of college existence.

“Thursday Night” simultaneously works to inform us of our cultural dialects while hoping to keep conversations about privilege and power going. But in the scheme of things, it is merely a 24-hour period in our existence.

“It’s a day in the life of a lot of people,” Morrison said.