David Mura and Carla Noack in Song of Extinction. Photo by Michal Daniel, 2011.
In 1994, Theater Latté Da co-founders Peter Rothstein and Denise Prosek began their successful collaboration by privately producing five original cabarets to showcase Twin Cities talent. They discovered that by placing equal emphasis on music and storytelling, they could weave tapestries of engaging, challenging, and often surprising narratives that resonated with people on many levels. Theater Latté Da incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1998. It remains committed to a rigorous experimentation with music and story that expands the art form and speaks to a contemporary audience.
In 1998, Theater Latté Da began performing at the intimate 120-seat Loring Playhouse. By 2007, Theater Latté Da productions were playing to sold out houses. The company began searching for spaces with different performance configurations to meet the unique needs of its productions. Since 2007, Theater Latté Da has produced shows at the Guthrie Theater, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Pantages Theatre, Southern Theater, History Theatre, Fitzgerald Theatre, the Rarig Center Stoll Thrust Theatre and The Lab Theater. Matching its productions to appropriate performance venues has given Theater Latté Da audiences the opportunity to experience a wide variety of spaces and neighborhoods throughout the Twin Cities.
Theater Latté Da is now emerging as a leader in the musical theater art form. Theater Latté Da boasts an impressive history of work that has received significant popular and critical acclaim (Awards and Recognition). Its world premiers include Passage of Dreams, All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, Steerage Song, and A Christmas Carole Petersen. Unique approaches to classics have resulted in boldly re-imagined productions of La Bohème, and Susannah, among others.
Cast of Passage of Dreams. Photo by Rick Spaulding, 2009.
Passage of Dreams
Theater Latté Da took musical theater to new heights—literally—combining intriguing stories, compelling music and the art of aerialism in this triptych of new musicals. The production was created in collaboration with New York-based team Katie Baldwin Eng, playwright, and Jeff Tang, composer.
The production was comprised of three short musicals, Passage of Dreams, Thirst and Bessie’s Birthday, all commissioned by Theater Latté Da and New York University’s Write/Act Festival. Passage of Dreams was developed at The Playwrights’ Center as part of PlayLabs in 2006, and had several workshops and readings in Minneapolis and New York. The Southern Theater run in 2009 marked the first time the works had been fully realized, demonstrating Theater Latté Da’s commitment to the development and production of new musical works.
David Roberts with Gary Ruschman (left) and Adam Reinwald (right). Photo by George Byron Griffiths, 2010.
All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914
In developing All Is Calm, Artistic Director Peter Rothstein wanted to create a work for the theater where the content dictated the form. In 1914, radio was the primary communication tool, so Rothstein conceived All Is Calm as a radio-docudrama. All Is Calm tells the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914 in the words and songs of the people who lived it, with dialogue created primarily through found text from letters, official war documents, autobiographies, World War I poetry, grave stone inscriptions and even old radio broadcasts.
Because theater is an art form that asks audience to engage their imagination to complete the story, Rothstein created a rich audio experience, and left the visual world up to the audience to imagine. The music was re-arranged for the production by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach of the vocal ensemble Cantus.
In 2007, All Is Calm premiered at three Twin Cities churches in collaboration with Cantus. The world premiere was also broadcast live on Minnesota Public Radio and was heard worldwide through live streaming. The broadcast has since been aired each year locally, nationally and even internationally through American Public Radio. In 2008, Cantus and Theater Latté Da teamed up with Hennepin Theatre Trust to present All Is Calm at the Pantages Theatre. All Is Calm has since become a holiday tradition being performed annually at the Pantages and on tour throughout the country during November and December.
Braxton Baker in Steerage Song. Photo by Michal Daniel, 2011.
Created by Artistic Director Peter Rothstein along with musician and writer Dan Chouinard, this musical docudrama tells a story of the journey immigrants took from Europe to America through Ellis Island.
Rothstein and Chouinard spent over three years gathering immigrant songs from 30 different European countries then narrowed their selection to 40 songs. The production includes lyrics in 15 different languages, but the driving force is the universal language of music. Providing a context for the music are quotes taken from immigrant guidebooks, Ellis Island documents, immigration legislation, and articles about life in New York’s Lower East Side tenement district.
Steerage Song received its world premiere in 2011 at the Fitzgerald Theatre in partnership with Minnesota Public Radio. New partnerships are being formed to allow Steerage Song to live beyond its premiere.
Tod Petersen and the cast of A Christmas Carole Petersen. Photo by Rick Spaulding.
A Christmas Carole Petersen
In 2000, this holiday favorite received its world premiere at the Loring Playhouse in Minneapolis. Written by Tod Petersen and Peter Rothstein, A Christmas Carole Petersen is a lively musical that speaks to the power of the holidays to bring out the best and worst in all of us. Tod Petersen, acclaimed for his hilarious and moving performance, reflects on the Yule season with his family and in particular, the show’s namesake, his mother Carole. Elements of Christmas kitsch, nostalgia and music blend to remind us of the traditions and rituals that shape a family, as a Minnesota son struggles to rediscover the magic of the holidays.
A Christmas Carole Petersen was presented for seven seasons at the Loring Playhouse before moving to the Ordway Center’s McKnight Theatre in December of 2007 and 2008.