Heart of the Beast Theatre Presents: The Impact Theory of Mass Extinction

Heart of the Beast Theatre Presents: The Impact Theory of Mass Extinction

Heart of the Beast Theatre Presents: The Impact Theory of Mass Extinction. Written by: Junauda Petrus Nasah and directed by: Harry Waters, Jr.

The Impact Theory of Mass Extinction tells the story of two black, queer, teens who discover dinosaur bones in their South Minneapolis neighborhood. The teens get sucked into a prehistoric portal where they are taken in by a nurturing “queendom” of dinosaurs. In this new world, our protagonists learn the ways of the dinosaurs as they prepare for their impending extinction. 

Puppeteer Steve Ackerman has transformed the historic Avalon Theater into a lush, prehistoric landscape. Live music and sound effects will animate the teens’ Jurassic journey. 

Impact Theory is born from the skills of local artists: shadow, table top, and large-scale puppet builders; mask makers; musicians; puppeteers; filmmakers; and actors. The creative brilliance of this team breathes life into this Minneapolis Dinosaur adventure premiering at the Avalon Theater this June. 

Impact Theory is the brainchild of playwright, Junauda Petrus-Nasah and puppeteer, Steve Ackerman. They wanted to craft a piece based on Petrus-Nasah’s experience as a queer Black girl growing up in 1980s South Minneapolis. She was inspired by what is now the Greenway, but were once train tracks peppered with graffiti and debris. The site, she recalls, resembled a magic portal to another world. 

Puppetry’s unique ability to embody the fantastic make it the perfect art form to tell this story. Petrus-Nasah has always felt a deep connection to puppetry and In the Heart of the Beast, explaining: 

“Puppetry has chosen me so many times in life. As a person of Trinidadian and Cruzan descent where there is a carnival and sort of parade history and legacy, Heart of the Beast and MayDay was proximity to that…I never could have imagined that I would be writing things one day that would be in this theater that I would be passing by all the time as a teenager.”

Exploring the relationship between humans and puppets gives us “a hopeful and exciting way to exhume and discover new ways of being,” says Director Harry Waters, Jr. 

Impact Theory will be Heart of the Beast’s first puppet and mask production since 2018. Petrus-Nasah hopes that Impact Theory will give kids of color and Indigenous youth the chance to see themselves reflected in puppetry. She aims to inspire children in the neighborhood to explore the medium, “Puppetry is one of those art forms that is so immersive, magnetizing, and magical. I want young people to see that puppetry is a tool and a possibility for the future as an art form and as a form of healing.” 

Three free performances, Sunday, June 19 at 2:00 pm, Thursday, June 23 at 7:30 pm, and Sunday June 26 at 2:00 p.m are intended for children and families in the Phillips & Powderhorn neighborhoods. All other performances are pay-as-able. Tickets and information at hobt.org

Artist Bios 

Junauda Petrus-Nasah Impact Theory’s playwright is an acclaimed poet, playwright, screenwriter, and multi-dimensional performance artist. West-Indian descended and African-sourced, she grew up in Minneapolis’s own Phillips and Powderhorn neighborhoods. Her book, “The Stars and the Blackness Between Them” received the Coretta Scott King honor book award. In 2016 she co-wrote Queen, a puppet show about a grandmother journeying through grief after the police shooting her grandson. In 2017 she wrote and directed Sweetness of Wild, an episodic-poetic-film series that centers an intergenerational cast of Black folks set in South Minneapolis. To learn more about her extensive body of work visit her website. 

Harry Waters Jr. Impact Theory’s director is a long time actor, director, and consultant. He received his MFA in Directing from University of Wisconsin-Madison. He served as a Professor and former Chair of the Theater and Dance Department at Macalester College. He created the role of Belize in the first production of Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (1991) and is most famous for his portrayal of Marvin Berry in Back to the Future (1985). Last fall, he co-directed “Passages: Grieving and Mourning the Fires of Lake Street” engaging 35 artists to create and install their responses to the murder of George Floyd and the uprising across Lake Street in Minneapolis. 

Steve Ackerman, Impact Theory’s performer, puppet and set designer, is a playwright and puppet artist who focuses on quick, crude, high-energy art making. He has his BFA in Acting from East Carolina University and MFA in Playwriting from Southern Illinois University. Previous projects include Action Sequence, Kaboom, and Cartooon! 

Featuring the talents of experienced and emerging artists including puppeteers Erica Warren, Alexandra Young, Stayci Bell, and Orren Fenn; actors Imagine Joy, Ashe Jaafaru, Baki Baki Baki, Alex Yang and Serena Black. Live music and sound by Mj/booboo and Taylor Johnson.  

Performance Schedule 

Thursday, June 16th 2022 7:30 PM (Opening Night) 

Friday, June 17th 2022 7:30 PM 

Saturday, June 18th 2022 7:30 PM 

Sunday, June 19th 2022 2:00 PM Free! 

Sunday, June 19th 2022 7:30 PM 

Thursday, June 23rd 2022 7:30 PM Free! 

Friday, June 24th 2022 7:30 PM 

Saturday, June 25th 2022 7:30 PM 

Sunday, June 26th 2022 2:00 PM Free! Access* 

Sunday, June 26th 2022 7:30 PM 

*The performance on Sunday June 26 at 2:00 pm will have ASL interpretation and audio description available. HOBT will offer a sensory touch tour on this date at 1 pm. There will be free ear plugs and fidgets for audience members as well. 

Free performances are intended for children and families in the Phillips & Powderhorn neighborhoods. All other performances are pay-as-able. Tickets and information at hobt.org

All audience members must wear face masks.

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