Invasion of the Minnesota Normals, a 1950s-Era Dark Comedy from Buzzworks Theater Company
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The last date listed for Invasion of the Minnesota Normals was Saturday April 19, 2008 / 8:00pm.
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“…hugely entertaining…haunting and over-the-top funny…” —Chicago Tribune
The conformity of the 1950s led to many corporations, governments and institutions becoming suspicious of free thinkers, dissenters, nonbelievers or anyone offbeat. McCarthyism was on the rise and everyone was suspect. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence and the level of threat (real or supposed) posed was often greatly exaggerated. Personality tests began to be administered by employers to identify an employee’s integrity and trustworthiness. However, this was not the original intention of the test. Rather, it was designed to spot pathological extremes of behavior in psychiatric patients. Only later was it expected to sort out the much subtler differences among normal people.
The scientists who developed the test used a control group of "normals.” They were all Minnesotans. They were all white. Most were Protestant, and many were of Scandinavian descent. Almost all were married, and many were parents. The majority were rural people, employed as farmers, blue-collar workers and housewives with an average educational level of eighth grade. This rather small and provincial group soon came to be called the “Minnesota Normals,” and though no one could have guessed it at the time, they were to form psychology’s major benchmark of normality for the next fifty years.
In the world of Invasion of the Minnesota Normals, the characters struggle to find self-understanding and decide how they want others to perceive them. Deception? Perception? The story is both a mystery and a dark comedy. To quote Helen, one of the characters in the play, “In the dark, everyone always wants to say a tad more about themselves than anyone really wants them to and then the lights come on and everyone is just drenched in suspicion.”
Jen Ellison (playwright) is the Artistic Director of WNEP Theater in Chicago and has performed and directed for the past twenty years throughout Chicago with such notable groups as Collaboraction, Stage Left Theatre, The Playground and FuzzyCo. She directed Let There Be Light..!, which she wrote with Dave Stinton. Ellison adapted and directed Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes and the Flannery O’Connor controversial classic Wise Blood. Other directing credits include The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, Angry White Guy Reads the Paper, 1000 Monkeys, When We Were Superstars, The Dumbwaiter, Phobia, Dead Dwarf Intermezzo, Grotesque Lovesongs, Wiley and the Hairy Man, New World Order, Krapp’s Last Tape and Loser’s Bracket.
Melissa Denton (director) started her directing career in Minneapolis with The Bryant Lake Bowl Cabaret Theater’s Festival of One-Woman Shows, Stranger Things, Happy Hour with Martini and Olive, sketch and improv reviews at Dudley Riggs Brave New Workshop and Wymprov, an all-woman improv group. L.A. stage credits include Buzzworks’ Only You, which was awarded “Pick of the Week” by Back Stage West, and Cabin Pressure (which she co-wrote with Maile Flanagan), and the world premiere of Pete’s Garage. In NYC Melissa directed The Hell Festival, Anhedonia Road and the short film “LA Phant,” which was nominated Audience Favorite at the Santa Monica Film Festival Moxie Awards.