Theater Latté Da announces titles for NEXT: New Musicals in the Making

For Immediate Release  

April 16, 2015


Contact: Seena Hodges 612-767-5646 office


Theater Latté Da announces titles for NEXT: New Musicals in the Making—a new work series showcasing three new musicals in various stages of development.

 Featuring staged readings from Minneapolis based, award-winning playwright Michael Elyanow, Playwrights’ Center Many Voices Jerome Fellow Harrison David Rivers, New York based writer of the Off-Broadway Musical Dogfight Peter Duchan and recent opening act for Lady Gaga's artRave Tour, singer/songwriter Breedlove.

 The series begins April 30 and continues through May 16 at the Ritz Theater in NE Minneapolis.

 $30 Three-show passes and $12 single tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at or by calling 612-339-3003.

(Minneapolis/St. Paul) Theater Latté Da today announced titles for NEXT: New Musicals in the Makinga new work series showcasing three musicals in various stages of development. Each of the three workshops culminates in three public performances followed by post-show discussions. These discussions provide audience members the opportunity to give immediate feedback and “get in on the ground floor” of the creative process. Performances begin April 30 at The Ritz Theater (345 13th Avenue NE) in Minneapolis. $30 three-show passes and $12 single tickets can be purchased online at or by calling 612-339-3003.

This year’s NEXT series includes an exciting slate of musicals and a play with music by a dynamic collection of playwrights, composers and lyricists. The first offering is LULLABY, a play with music written by Michael Elyanow and directed by Playwrights’ Center Artistic Director Jeremy Cohen. Jonatha Brooke (My Mother Has Four Noses; Playwrights’ Center/Guthrie Theater) is the musical director and will also be featured in the reading. She will be joined by Adelin Phelps (The Drunken City; Dark and Stormy Productions). Lullaby is the story of a widowed mother who, haunted by the death of her husband, forms an unlikely friendship with the lesbian guitar tutor she hires to teach her to play lullabies for her infant son.

THE LAST QUEEN OF CANAAN is a new musical by current Playwrights’ Center Many Voices Jerome Fellow Harrison David Rivers, with music by Jacob Yandura, lyrics by Rebekah Greer Melocik, directed by Theater Latté Da Artistic Director Peter Rothstein and musical direction by Sanford Moore. THE LAST QUEEN OF CAANAN is a compelling story set in 1937 on a farm in rural Virginia that follows the relationship between an uncompromising 92-year old sharecropper and her restless 22-year old great granddaughter. The musical features the talents of Ivey Award-winner Regina Williams (The Color Purple; Park Square Theatre), Nathan Barlow (Marcus, or the Secret of Sweet; Pillsbury House Theatre) and Shinah Brashers (Into the Woods; Theater Latté Da) among others.

The final piece in the series is the musical STU FOR SILVERTON by award-winning New York based playwright Peter Duchan. The piece features music by recent opening act for Lady Gaga’s artRAVE tour Breedlove and is directed by Intiman Theatre Producing Artistic Director Andrew Russell. Theater Latté Da Resident Music Director Denise Prosek serves as musical director. Based on true-life events, STU FOR SILVERTON is the story or Stu Rasmussen—a lifelong resident of Silverton, Oregon—who was launched into the spotlight when he became America’s first openly transgender Mayor in 2008. Struggling to overcome the weight of adversity, Stu found uncompromising support and love in the most unlikely of places. The musical features Dieter Bierbrauer (OLIVER!; Theater Latté Da/Hennepin Theatre Trust) in the role of Stu, as well as Melissa Hart (My Fair Lady; Guthrie Theater), Kim Kivens (OLIVER!; Theater Latté Da/Hennepin Theatre Trust), Kersten Rodau (The Little Mermaid; Chanhasssen Dinner Theatre) and Max Wojtanowicz (Fruit Fly; Illusion Theatre). The piece was commissioned by Intiman Theater in Seattle.

Each musical will receive three public performances followed by post-show discussions, which provide vital feedback for the writers. “We believe strongly in the importance of fueling the creative journeys of artists and to engage audiences in the development process,” says Peter Rothstein. “It is our hope to use NEXT: New Musicals in the Making as a vehicle to nurture musical theater writers and to make a significant contribution to future of the great American Musical.”


About the Musicals:


LULLABY Book, Music and Lyrics by Michael Elyanow Directed by Jeremy Cohen Musical Direction by Jonatha Brooke

LULLABY is a play with music about a widowed mother who, haunted by the death of her husband, forms an unlikely friendship with the lesbian guitar tutor she hires to teach her to play lullabies for her infant son. LULLABY is an intimate story about the stories we tell ourselves before the lights go out.

 Featuring: Jonatha Brooke and Adelin Phelps

Performance Dates & Times: Thursday, April 30 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 3 at 2:00 p.m.


THE LAST QUEEN OF CANAAN Book by Harrison David Rivers Music by Jacob Yandura Lyrics by Rebekah Greer Melocik Directed by Peter Rothstein Musical Direction by Sanford Moore

Set in 1937 on a farm in rural Virginia, THE LAST QUEEN OF CANAAN, follows the relationship between Cora Skye, an uncompromising 92-year old sharecropper, and Ginny, her restless 22-year old great granddaughter. When Kay, a Northern do-gooder, descends on the property to collect Cora’s story for the WPA, she unwittingly fans the flames of Ginny’s desire to escape the farm, precipitating a confrontation that will leave all three women forever changed. With a rich, gospel-infused score, THE LAST QUEEN OF CANAAN is a haunting tale of legacy and the life-altering power of a promise.

Featuring: Regina Williams, Nathan Barlow and Shinah Brashers

Performance Dates & Times: Thursday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 10 at 2:00 p.m.



Book by Peter Duchan Music and Lyrics by Breedlove Directed by Andrew Russell Musical Direction by Denise Prosek

Based on the true story of America’s first transgender mayor and the town that elected him, STU FOR SILVERTON celebrates a new American folk hero from Silverton, Oregon. This all-American new musical blends Our Town and The Rocky Horror Show, testing the boundaries of tolerance as a small community adjusts to big changes.

Featuring: Dieter Bierbrauer, Melissa Hart, Kim Kivens, Kersten Rodau and Max Wojtanowicz

 Performance Dates & Times: Wednesday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 16 at 2:00 p.m.

About the Artists:

Michael Elyanow is an award-winning writer for stage and (small) screen. THEATRE: Robyn Is Happy was produced in 2013 at B Street Theatre, directed by Buck Busfield. The Children was produced in 2012 at The Theatre @ Boston Court and directed by Jessica Kubzansky. It won the 2013 GLAAD Award for Outstanding LA Theatre and is published in its entirety in the international theatre journal TheatreForum. A Lasting Mark, commissioned by Hartford Stage, was part of Manhattan Theatre Club’s 2011 7@7 Reading Series. Lullaby was last heard at The Lark. The Idiot Box, published by Samuel French, was produced at Open Fist (2007) and Naked Eye theatres (2003), both directed by Jeremy B Cohen. Ten-minute plays include Banging Ann Coulter and A Few More Dumb Propositions, both published by Playscripts. Television: Michael has developed pilots with ACME Productions (The Exes), Tagline Pictures (Psych) and Vesuvius Productions (Spartacus). In addition to Lullaby, Michael is currently developing a musical that takes place during the summer of 1980, aka the summer of Who Shot JR?

Jeremy B. Cohen is entering his fifth season as the Producing Artistic Director at the Playwrights’ Center and previously served as the Associate Artistic Director/Director of New Play Development at Hartford Stage from 2003 to 2010, where he also directed several premieres. Other directing credits include productions at Centerstage, Alliance, Alley Theatre, Goodman, Dorset Theatre, Steppenwolf, McCarter, Theater J, Victory Gardens, Actors Theatre of Louisville, George Street Playhouse, Kansas City Rep, Repertory Theatre of St Louis, New Victory, Open Fist, Theatre Latté Da, and Royal George; workshops at O’Neill Playwrights’ Conference, New York Stage & Film, Pasadena Playhouse, Denver Center, New Harmony, Bay Area Playwrights Festival and Woolly Mammoth. As Founding Artistic Director of Naked Eye Theatre Company in Chicago, Cohen developed/directed more than 20 plays, including several premieres. He has received numerous directing awards, an NEA/TCG Directors Fellowship, and a Northwestern University grant for his play 12 Volt Heart. Last Season he directed the World Premiere of Brahman/I (Mixed Blood), and Wild With Happy (Centerstage), as well as a new musical Off-Broadway by award-winning singer/songwriter Jonatha Brooke called My Mother Has Four Noses, and recently directed the World Premiere of Joe Waechter's Lake Untersee (Workhaus Collective/Illusion Theatre).

Jonatha Brooke is a singer and songwriter with four major label releases, and seven on her own label, BAD DOG RECORDS. Her most recent record is the companion CD to her musical play My Mother Has 4 Noses. Ms. Brooke has recently co-written songs with Katy Perry and The Courtyard Hounds for their current releases. She’s also written for three Disney films, various television shows, and composed the theme song for Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse. My Mother Has 4 Noses is her first musical play. She has three other musicals in development: Quadroon, with legendary jazz pianist Joe Sample; Hopper, which just premiered at Adelphi University’s Main Stage, and Death & Venice, both with playwright Anton Dudley. More about 4 Noses at: More about Jonatha’s music at: or

Harrison David Rivers’ plays include: When Last We Flew (NYCFringe Excellence in Playwriting Award, GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Off Off Broadway Play), The Bandaged Place (Global Age Project winner), sweetLook Upon Our LowlinessTHE SEA & THE STARSThe SalvagersAND SHE WOULD STAND LIKE THISLydie and Where Storms Are Born. He has also written the librettos for The Last Queen of Canaan (music by Jacob Yandura, lyrics by Rebekah Melocik) and FIVE POINTS: An American Musical (music and lyrics by Douglas Lyons & Ethan Pakchar). His short play, And It Seems To Me A Very Good Sign, was produced as part of the 24 Hour Plays at the American Airlines Theater on Broadway. Honors: Many Voices Jerome Fellowship (The Playwrights’ Center), Van Lier Fellowship (New Dramatists), Emerging Artist of Color Fellowship (NYTW), Interstate 73 (P73) and The Emerging Writers’ Group at the Public Theater. Training: MFA, Columbia University.

Jacob Yandura and Rebekah Greer Melocik began collaborating as M.F.A. classmates in New York University’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.  Their musicals include The Last Queen of Canaan (book by Harrison David Rivers), Feral (book by Victor Lesniewksi) based on John Bishop’s Borderline, and a commission from New York City Children’s Theater, Wringer, based on the novel by Jerry Spinelli. Recognitions and residencies include: the 2014 Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals, the 2012-2013 Dramatists Guild Fellowship, the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project, Cap21's Writers Residency and ANT Fest 2013 (The Fearful Earful).  The Last Queen of Canaan received a workshop (dir: Mark Brokaw) in June 2013 through the Yale Institute for Music Theatre, and was part of Northern Stage's New Works Now 2015 Festival.  This spring, it will receive a workshop through Theater Latte Da's NEXT development program.  Feral received a workshop through the York Theatre Company’s resident writers program, NEO (New, Emerging, Outstanding), in May 2014 and has been selected for development at Ars Nova's two-year UNCHARTED residency.  Wringer received a first pass workshop this Fall. Jacob and Rebekah are both members of the artist collective, PVBLIC BATH.

Peter Rothstein has directed 53 mainstage productions for Theater Latté Da, including 8 world premieres. Other recent collaborations include the Guthrie Theater, The Children’s Theatre Company, Minnesota Opera, Illusion Theatre, Ten Thousand Things and Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater. He is the creator of All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, and Steerage Song, a new musical created in collaboration with Dan Chouinard. Peter has been named one of Minnesota’s Artists of the Year by the Star Tribune, Theater Artist of the Year by Lavender, and the Best Director by City Pages. He has been awarded grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Theatre Communications Group, the Minnesota State Arts Board and the McKnight Foundation. He holds a B.A. in Music and Theater from St. John’s University and a Master of Fine Arts in Directing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Sanford Moore is perhaps most noted as the founder, director and arranger for the award-winning vocal jazz ensemble Moore By Four. He has traveled extensively with his ensemble doing workshops and concerts in the U.S., Europe and Japan. He has shared the stage with such notable jazz artists as Bobby McFerrin, Harry Connick Jr., the late Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughn and Joe Williams. Moore was the musical director most recently with Penumbra Theatre's production of Dinah Was, Mixed Blood Theatre's production of Two Queens One Castle and Hey City Theatre's production of Smokey Joe's Café. Moore has extensive experience arranging and conducting industrial and business theater productions, as well as writing and producing jingles. He has served as producer, arranger and pianist on various recording projects including Swing Fever, Deck The Halls, I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart: A Tribute to Duke Ellington, I Have Dreamed, Fever, Some Cats Know, and his first solo recording, My First Love: A Collection of Hymns, Gospels and Spirituals. He also serves as minister of music for the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis.

Peter Duchan wrote the book of the musical Dogfight, which premiered at Second Stage (director, Joe Mantello). Dogfight won the 2013 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical and was nominated for five Outer Critics Circle Awards, including Off Broadway Musical and Book of a Musical, and two Drama League Awards, including Broadway or Off Broadway Musical. Dogfight received the 2011 Richard Rodgers Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. Peter co-wrote the screenplays for Breaking Upwards (IFC Films) and the short Unlocked (official selection, Tribeca Film Festival). His play Lavender Scare was presented in Geva Theatre’s 2011 Plays-in-Progress series. Dramatists Guild Fellowship, 2011-2012. Graduate, Northwestern University.

Andrew Russell is the Producing Artistic Director of the Tony Award-winning Intiman Theatre. With a focus on directing stage productions celebrating outsiders and those on the fringe, he conceived and directed Stu for Silverton, a new musical about America’s first transgender mayor heralded as “groundbreaking” and the “best of 2013” by The Seattle Times. In 2014, Russell directed both parts of Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Angels In America for Intiman Theatre. In 2015 Intiman Theatre will premiere a new play, John Baxter is a Switch Hitter, by Andrew and co-author Ana Brown about the 2008 gay softball world series held in Seattle when a team accused another team of having too many “straight” players.  Also in 2015 Russell will direct a revival of the one-woman Diana Vreeland show Full Gallop starring Mercedes Ruehl at The Old Globe, and present a workshop presentation of the musical he’s co-writing with Richard Gray for Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre about Dorothy Kilgallen, Jack Ruby, Laura Poitras, and Edward Snowden. Andrew served as Tony Kushner’s assistant for many years, has assistant directed on and off-Broadway, and received a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University.

Having just appeared as the opening act for Lady Gaga's artRave Tour, Breedlove is an American singer,songwriter, and performance personality. In 2010, Breedlove was invited to open for Semi Precious Weapons on their North American Dirty Showbiz Tour. In 2011, he appeared in Gaga’s HBO special and in her video promotions for the VMA’s that same year. He became the Chief Ambassador for her Born This Way Foundation on the American leg of the associated Born This Way Ball. He is represented by the William Morris Agency for musical theatre writing, and recently provided the music and lyrics for the new musical Stu For Silverton which had a workshop production at Seattle's Intiman Theatre and was included in last year's NAMT festival. For the past 5 years he has produced a popular weekly event called “Magic Monday” at the infamous Rivington Street rock 'n roll dive bar St. Jerome’s, where he performs his latest tunes with his DJ/producer Chew Fu and his dancer Jocelyn McBride. Breedlove’s debut album with Chew Fu, entitled Magic Monday, is currently available for pre-order on iTunes.

Denise Prosek has worked extensively as a music director, pianist, and arranger in the Twin Cities for the past twenty years, including forty mainstage productions for Theater Latté Da. She has also music directed for Children’s Theatre Company, the Guthrie, Park Square, Mu Performing Arts, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Hennepin Theatre Trust, and the Ivey Awards, among others. Denise holds a Bachelor of Music from St. Olaf College. She was named a Play­wrights’ Center McKnight Theater Artist Fellow in 2013-2014, Outstanding Musical Director in 2006 and 2008 from Star Tribune, Best Music Director in 2010 from Lavender, and Theater Artist of the Year in 2012 from Lavender.

Theater Latté Da is an award-winning Twin Cities musical theater company that combines music and story to illuminate the breadth and depth of the human experience. The company seeks to create new connections between story, music, artists and audience by exploring and expanding the art of musical theater.



Into The Woods by Theater Latté Da, performing at the Ritz Theater

David and Chelsea BerglundHow Was the

March 8, 2015

Chelsea: From the moment we walked into The Ritz Theater (345 13th Ave NE) for Theater Latté Da’s production of the great Stephen Sondheim‘s rich and multi-layered Into The Woods, it felt like we were in for something good. The theater, in which the bare concrete blocks that make up the structure were exposed, was adorned sparsely, with fencing “trees” and a grand piano covered in a blanket and a simple vase sprouting feathers. There were no curtains, just a few garments and objects strewn along the walls and the back. It was obvious the Theater Latté Da creative team (set design by Kate Sutton-Johnson, lighting by Barry Browning, costumes by Samantha Haddow, props by Benjamin Olsen) and director Peter Rothstein were inviting the audience wholly into the space and, thus, into the story.

David: And the rest of the production follows suit with creative uses of this minimalist mise-en-scene and actors taking on multiple roles; choices that further demand a suspension of disbelief and an investment in the production. Of course, this was already an aspect of the self-reflective nature of Into the Woods, but that just made it all the more fitting.

The play centers on the quest of a village baker and his wife in pursuit of magic items that will at long last deliver them a child. By following the journey of this central couple, we are introduced via various interactions to the familiar personalities of Cinderella, Jack, Rupunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and other likely ever-after types, whom all in some way undercut common expectations of fairytale devices. Comparing this production’s approach to the recent Disney film adaptation is an instructive study in contrasts: where Disney relayed the play’s many intersecting stories in mostly generic fashion, Latté Da is more true to Sondheim in deconstructing these sources.

Chelsea: With their design choices, Latté Da (as it often does) provides a sharp and fresh look at this oft-produced play. And the casting choices also prove smart: performances are uniformly top-notch–the singing is strong all around, particularly important considering only nine voices are ever present, leaving very little room for error. Additionally, the actors are given a chance to perform with bounding physicality, and the energy is generally very high. David Darrow plays both the baker and Rapunzel’s Prince with surety, smoothly and effectively transitioning between them, and Brandon Brooks, only seventeen years old, shows control and confidence as Jack/Steward, effectively carrying across the conflicted emotions of his characters.

David: And the women are equally strong, ranging from the subtle longing of Britta Ollman’s Cinderella to the spot-on, assertive comedic timing of Shinah Brashears’s Little Red. Also terrific is Greta Oglesby, as the Witch. But really, the whole ensemble does not have a weak link. Perhaps the best compliment a production of Sondheim can get is that it effectively highlights Sondheim as the true star, and this cast, and the production as a whole, manages to do this while also imbuing his work with refreshing creativity.

Chelsea: One of the things this production captures with gusto is how extraordinarily funny this show can be. This is partly aided by the fresh, bare-bones staging and fairytale elements that lend themselves to playfulness with props and costumes, like that the cow looks nothing like a cow. (Fantastically, Rothstein trusts that his audience doesn’t need a paper mache cow onstage.)

David: Some who have seen various renditions of this show may be asking if they really want to pay for another go. Yet, if this production proves anything, it is that good theater wonderfully reminds us that there is no such thing as a definitive text in this venue, and with enough creative talent, a well-written show can unearth new artistic significance. So with certainly, whether or not you have previously seen a production of this show, you are in store for an impressively original experience, and should saddle up and give it a go. You won’t regret the decision.

"Into the Woods" by Theater Latte Da at the Ritz Theater

Jill SchaferCherry and Spoon 

March 8, 2015

I first saw the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical fairy tale mash up Into the Woods four years ago, and have seen it several times since then, including the recent star-studded movie. Every time I see it I like it more. I think Sondheim is like Shakespeare in that it has a very specific rhythm and cadence to it that takes a minute to get used to, but the more time you spend with it, the richer and deeper it becomes. Such has been my experience with Into the Woods, so I was primed to love my favorite theater company Theater Latte Da's production of it. But it has exceeded my expectations, and even Sondheim newbies will be enthralled by this brilliant staging of a brilliantly written musical. Latte Da has pared down this big Broadway musical to something that feels intimate and innovative, using a small cast and orchestra, and inventive and thoughtful choices in every detail of the production. This, my friends, is Broadway re-imagined, or at least how I would like to see Broadway re-imagined. Simply put, it's sublime.

Where better to set Into the Woods than in Germany, birthplace of fairy tales as we know them? And why not make it a beer garden for extra fun and specificity? The stage is set the moment you walk into the lobby of the charming Ritz Theater, where a sign reading "Theater Latte Da präsentiert Ab in den Wald" hangs over the concession stand, which sells delicious Bauhaus beer and pretzels, or as the German nerd in me likes to say, Bier und Bretzeln (yes, I was the one on Opening Night wearing the Austrian hat I bought in Salzburg 20 years ago when I studied abroad there). The stage itself has been laid bare with no walls or backdrops; you can see the whole stage area, back to the unfinished walls. There is no backstage, everything happens in front of you, including costume changes and sound effects, which are cleverly created by the cast. Trees are constructed by what looks like wooden fencing spiraling to the sky, and after the giant comes through, half of the trees fall creating obstacles that each character maneuvers in their own specific way, athletically, carefully, or clumsily (set design by Kate Sutton-Johnson). All prop pieces look organic to the scene, including chandeliers made of antlers and the most adorable cow, constructed from an old-fashioned buggy with a wooden pail for a head and a piece of rope for a tail, and a little bit of imagination (properties design by Benjamin Olsen). Actors walk out on stage RENT-like with the house lights still up, and then begin to tell the story, making the audience feel like we're all in this together.

Director Peter Rothstein has made a genius decision to cast just 10 actors in these 20 roles, and once again has chosen the perfect actors for each part, with clever pairings of characters to an actor. It's such a delight to watch the über-talentedDavid Darrow transform from the hard-working earnest baker to a pompous and shallow prince in a matter of seconds as he doffs one hat and dons another behind a tree; or the young star-in-the-making Brandon Brooks kill Jack's mother as the steward in one scene and mourn her as Jack in the next; or Peter Middlecamp go from the evil stepmother to the charming prince and back again several times within one scene (not to mention his deliciously devilish wolf, Hollywood - you can keep Johnny Depp, I'll take Peter Middlecamp any day). Dan Hopman is a wonderful narrator and emcee, slightly detached and observing, until he's forced into the story. Britta Ollmann only has one role to play, Cinderella, but she does it beautifully. Kendall Anne Thompson and Shinah Brashears are excellent as the stepsisters as well as the witch's sheltered and absurdly long-haired daughter Rapunzel and the fearless and spirited Little Red, respectively. Kate Beahen is warm and human as the Baker's wife, and also climbs inside a tree to voice Cinderella's mother. Elisa Pluhar brings to life both Jack's exasperated mother and Little Red's doomed Granny. Last but certainly not least, Greta Oglesby is a commanding voice and presence as the witch, in both of her forms.

But this is Sondheim, so let's talk about the music. Music Director Jason Hansen on piano leads just two other musicians (on cello and wind instruments) in this sparse three-piece orchestra that, despite being a significantly trimmed down orchestration, leaves nothing to be desired. The ten singers all sound gorgeous, alone and in delicious harmony. There's not one false note, moment, or performance in the entire show. Listening to David and Peter duet as the pompous princes complaining about their women is the opposite of "Agony," in fact it's a highlight in a show that's one highlight after another. The "No One is Alone" quartet is poignant and beautiful, as is Greta's rendition of perhaps the most well-known song, "Children Will Listen." And any song that has all 10 cast members on stage singing and moving at the same time is the best. In fact, the cast never leaves the stage (no backstage, remember?), and simply sit in a chair on the side of the stage when not in the scene. Costume changes happen in full view of the audience, which seems to say "hey, we're putting on a show," and invites us to use our imagination to play along.

Speaking of costumes, Samantha Haddow's costumes beautifully suit the theme, with the aforementioned hats, lederhosen, peasant gowns, and most importantly, pieces that can easily be added or removed and instantly define the character.

Theater Latte Da's inventive and sublime interpretation of Into the Woods continues through March 29. If you're a fan of music-theater, it's a must see.

'OLIVER!' presents steampunk Dickens

Kristin TillotsonStar Tribune

February 9, 2015

At a time when income inequality in the United States has never been higher, we could all use a bit of updated Dickens. Theater Latté Da’s new staging of “Oliver!” is just the soot-stained ticket. The reworked Broadway classic serves up plenty of fun alongside its cruel poverty, but does so without over-sugaring the gruel.

Director Peter Rothstein’s steampunk take on the tale of an orphan boy’s sojourn from workhouse to mean streets to loving home manages to stay true to the material, including beloved songs like “Food, Glorious Food” and “Consider Yourself,” while putting an original stamp on style and mood that allows even diehard fans of the 1968 Mark Lester/Jack Wild movie to see the show with fresh eyes.

“Steampunk,” if you’re wondering, is officially defined as a sci-fi genre that features ye olde steam-powered machinery, but blends elements of Victorian and modern fashion to create a mixed-up aura of eras. Think Helena Bonham Carter’s wardrobe and you get the idea.

The gray-on-gray industrial set (by Rick Polonek) looks straight out of a penny dreadful, using metal scaffolding plus occasional infusions of steam as a base, then exchanging superficial details to switch from the workhouse to the sewers that Fagin’s pickpocket urchins call home, then the Three Cripples Public House and the well-appointed house of Mr. Brownlow. Christine Richardson’s masterful costumes are a cacophony of color and layering, corsets and bustles.

Sixth-grader Nate Turcotte plays Oliver with endearing shyness, while 14-year-old Alec Fisher nails the Artful Dodger’s cocky showboating. But the show’s success hinges on pickpocket wrangler Fagin, and Bradley Greenwald owns the role, radiating dignity beneath the character’s frenetic, scheming shtick and executing Michael Matthew Ferrell’s spirited choreography with rakish aplomb.

Lauren Davis imbues Nancy with strength that’s all the more poignant during “As Long As He Needs Me,” her song of blind love for abusive thug Bill Sikes. Dieter Bierbrauer’s leather-clad, glowering Sikes is a menacing predator we’d have liked to see more of — except, of course, when he’s striking Nancy. Rothstein is to be commended for not whitewashing the simulated beatings. While not graphic enough to take away from the show’s family-friendly content, those few moments made some in the audience squirm, as they are meant to.

Music director Denise Prosek uses intimate sounds that include a mournful accordion, a violin that sings an affectionate duet with Oliver on “Where Is Love,” and creative percussion that instills urgency without distracting.

“Oliver!” is the third “Broadway Re-Imagined” collaboration between Latté Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust. Let’s hope that they keep ’em coming.

OLIVER!: The Clanking Heart of Darkness

Ed HuyckCity Pages

February 9, 2015

For the first half-hour or so of the Theatre Latte Da/Hennepin Theatre Trust's Oliver!, you have a perfectly fine production of Lionel Bart's Oliver!

Then Bradley Greenwald enters the picture and ramps the show up to 11. As he has done so often over the years, Greenwald takes command of a character and makes it hard to imagine anyone else in the role.

This time it is as Fagin, the thief-king who takes little orphan Oliver off the bad streets of Victorian London. Here, the character is a magic man (literally, as he showcases a number of magic tricks during "Pick a Pocket or Two") who hides some inner conflict about what he and the boys are doing.

It's not much self-doubt, but it gives a character that can be easily defined by stereotypes a bit of depth. Greenwald takes that for all it's worth. He also performs the hell out of Fagin's numbers.

A quick recap: Oliver Twist is a young orphan who, after having the audacity to ask for more than the starvation-level gruel offered at the workhouse, ends up on an adventure to London. There, he falls in with Fagin, the Artful Dodger, and starts to train as a thief.

Oliver has the worst first day of work ever, as he is nabbed on his first attempt at pickpocketing. The man he tries to rob takes pity on the boy and shows him a better life, but the denizens of the seedy world below are not willing to give up Oliver so easily.

Peter Rothstein's production doesn't hide the grime of the story, from giving us dozens of dirty workhouse boys at the beginning to the colorful-if-worn-and-torn clothes of Fagin's band. The look, certainly of Fagin and company, takes cues from steampunk (from set designer Rick Polenek and costume designer Alice Fredrickson), creating an intriguing visual contrast between these lower classes and the stuffy folks in control.

As Bill Sykes, Dieter Bierbrauer looks like a refugee from Rammstein, as he wears thigh-high boots, black leather pants, and colorful dreadlocks. His magnetic performance helps make his relationship with Nancy easier to understand.

That's also aided by Lauren Davis's performance. Nancy isn't the easiest character for modern audiences to understand, as she is locked in an obviously abusive relationship that still inspires her to sing songs of love and longing. Davis gives us clues as to why Nancy sticks around, and helps make her a convincing character.

Nate Turcotte struggled early on opening night as Oliver, with some vocal and technical issues. Once those cleared up, the young actor made the best of the role and provided a strong core to the show.

Rothstein's production, aided by choreographer Michael Matthew Ferrell, offers plenty of entertainment through a fast-paced and visually engaging time. It's the stars, however, who make some moments something special.

"OLIVER!" review: Darker than the movie - and more realistic

Chris HewittSt. Paul Pioneer Press

February 8, 2015

If you think of "Oliver," you probably picture apple-cheeked orphans, cheerily singing that it sure would be swell if they could have another bowl of gruel, sort of a pre-"Annie" "Annie." But a new production of "Oliver" offers a much less apple-cheeked take on the show.

Opening with a blood-curdling wail, a loud factory whistle and a view of a massive, industrial set, the first moments of Theater Latte Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust's co-production of "Oliver" deliberately evoke three key opening elements of another bleak musical that is set in London around 1840, "Sweeney Todd." Under the direction of Peter Rothstein, this "Oliver" proceeds to make a case that the show -- with its spousal abuse, exploitation of children and murder -- is more akin to dark-hearted "Sweeney Todd" than to "Annie" or to the Oscar-winning moppet overload of the film version of "Oliver."

Dominated by Rick Polenek's impressive and versatile set, Rothstein's production mostly avoids sentiment. He steers the adaptation of Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist" closer to the book's pained and realistic portrait of a boy (sweet-voiced Nate Turcotte) who is passed from one bad situation to the next, ending up in a den of child thieves presided over by wily Fagin, who is determined to get out of them every cent he can. Fagin can come off like a music-hall charmer but Bradley Greenwald's Fagin is despairing and scared. Greenwald's "Reviewing the Situation," in particular, will ring true with anyone in today's audience who wonders how they're ever going to be able to retire.

Lauren Davis' Nancy, who becomes a sort of mother figure to little Oliver, is stronger and more confident than most Nancys (and Davis' singing voice has more belt in it), but that strength makes Nancy's powerlessness even more poignant: No matter how much she has going for her, she can't survive in a world with little use for single, working women.

Rothstein has assembled an unusually fine supporting cast, whose members are shown off in a lovely version of "Who Will Buy," one of many "hits" in a score that also includes "Consider Yourself," "As Long As He Needs Me" and "Where Is Love." And, of course, there are the orphans, a couple dozen of whom are members of Minnesota Boychoir. Are they all proficient actors? No. Some were still a bit stiff on opening night but mention must be made of all-singing/all-dancing/all-astonishing Alejandro Vega, who's a tiny powerhouse. And, even when the youngsters on stage aren't quite nailing their performances, they have so much innate personality that it more than compensates.

The boys' effect on the show really hits home during a curtain-call reprise of "Consider Yourself," in which there are about 50 people on stage at once. This "Oliver" is a huge production, one that argues persuasively for the continuing relevance of a show that doesn't get revived often outside of high schools. And the attention Latte Da pays to suffering shouldn't make it sound like it's not a fun evening of theater, because it is. This "Oliver" may open with a scream but it ends the way you hope a musical will: with a knock-'em-dead song.

MSP Mag Review: Master Class is Masterful and Classy

MSP Mag Tad Simons


If you are any kind of theater buff, by now you’ve heard that Theatre Latte Da’s production of Terrence McNally’s Master Class, starring Sally Wingert as the legendary opera diva Maria Callas, has been extended through November 9.

“Popular demand” is always the reason given for such extensions, but the reasons for the demand in this case are twofold: First and foremost is Sally Wingert’s stellar performance as Callas, arguably the most influential opera singer of the 20th century; second is the crafty way in which the play makes opera accessible by linking it to other modes of artistic expression in general.

Master Class is based on a series of seminars Callas gave at Juilliard in 1971. For an extra layer of verisimilitude, the play is being staged in MacPhail Center for Music’s Antonello Hall, where similar classes are given to the students at MacPhail. In a “master class,” a guest artist is invited to observe several students—typically the best ones, hand-picked by their teachers—and offer a critique. Some artists are very good at these classes, doling out praise and guidance in equal measure, with firm but supportive advice for the students, and a generosity of spirit that leaves everyone feeling inspired.

Wingert’s Callas is not one of these teachers.

Callas is there reluctantly. It’s clear she thinks doing such classes is a bit beneath her. Furthermore, she doesn’t quite know how to communicate what she knows about the art of singing—at least not in the technical sense. But this inability to talk about music and opera in ways that other people understand them is what propels the play forward. In trying to explain what she means when she declares, “It’s all in the music!,” the play peels back the layers of Callas’s psyche to reveal her inner struggle as an artist and human being. Yes, the dialogue is about music, but it is more importantly about art and life. All the advice that Callas gives can be applied to other types of art, because what she is really talking about is total and utter commitment to the work—the sort of commitment that great artists have and others don’t—as well as the rewards and sacrifices of a life subsumed by art.

No doubt true opera fans will have a few bones to pick about how Wingert portrays Callas, but the rest of us are free to simply enjoy it. During the lessons, Wingert’s Callas is a hilariously caustic scold who belittles the students (her “victims”) with matter-of-fact observations about their dress and manner. She confuses the students by appearing to be more concerned about how they enter the stage and hold their hands than she is about how they use their voice. But there is method in her madness, because, as she explains, “anyone can sing the notes”—the hard part is finding the connective tissue between the notes, the composer, and historical lineage of artistry that led to the moment of the music’s creation—when the composer was, for all intents and purposes, “god.”

Wingert’s performance isn’t all barbs and laughs, though. In the quieter, more reflective moments of the play, she channels Callas’s fragility—particularly later in life, when her voice was declining and her romance with Aristotle Onassis was falling apart—and reveals the sensitivity and vulnerability beneath the larger-than-life bombast of the diva.

Another factor that makes Master Class well worth seeing (if you can get a ticket) is that the actual music sung by the students is excellent and moving all on its own. Kira Lace Hawkins, Kelsey Stark D’Emilio, and Benjamin Dutcher all deliver exquisite mini performances that are all the more engaging because one rarely gets to hear actual opera singers so up close and personal, in a space as acoustically perfect as MacPhail’s Antonello Hall. Director Peter Rothstein must be credited for this added layer of magic, proving once again that his genius with musical material is apparent no matter how large or small the stage.

BWW Reviews: In Theater Latte Da's Magnificent Production of MASTER CLASS, Sally Wingert Embodies the Legendary Maria Callas

Broadway WorldBy Jill Schafer October 14, 2014

I don't know opera, and I don't believe I had ever heard the name Maria Callas before seeing Theater Latte Da's Master Class. But I have been educated. I now know that Maria Callas was one of the most talented, dedicated, and fascinating artists of the 20th century. Her paintbrush was her voice, her canvas was the stage, her creation was opera. She sacrificed everything for her art, and had very strong opinions about what art is and what it isn't. She shared those opinions in a series of master classes at Julliard in the early '70s. Playwright Terrence McNally used those classes as the backdrop against which to tell the story of who this woman was in his 1996 Tony-winning play. Her attitude towards art may not lead to the healthiest and happiest of lifestyles, but it does in some cases lead to some exquisite art, both in her singing, and in this magnificent production by Theater Latte Da.

The brilliance of this play is that it's constructed as a music school lecture, with Maria Callas as the instructor and we, the theater audience, as her audience. This allows her to speak directly to us, which is a bit terrifying as she's not an easy teacher, but also extremely engaging as it immediately draws us into the world of the play. Maria takes the stage and begins imparting to us her wealth of knowledge about opera and show business in general, gained from thirty years of performing at the best opera houses in the world. One by one she calls three students in to instruct them as we watch, teaching them that it's about more than just the singing, you have to feel every emotion. Through her direct instruction to the audience, her harsh critiques of her students (that is really more about her than them), and through flashbacks or memories of certain trying times in her life (including her relationship with Aristotle Onassis), we get a clear picture of who this woman was, and it's quite fascinating. She was the type of person for whom the word diva was invented, but it was all at the service of her art.

I'm feel like I'm running out of words to describe Sally Wingert's performances. She recently won an Ivey for not one but four brilliant performances over the last year, all of which I saw and loved. And yet she continues to amaze meeach time I see her. How does she do it? She has created so many very different, complex, fascinating, layered, real women. Sally absolutely commands the stage as Maria Callas; she's strong, opinionated, funny, vulnerable, and so present. When you watch Sally you don't feel like you're watching a performance, you feel like you're watching a person. Maria would approve of Sally, she doesn't "act," she "feels," she "is." I felt like I was attending a very important lecture about art and life, and I should be taking notes. I'm not sure who was giving the lecture, Maria Callas, or Sally Wingert, or director Peter Rothstein, who does another beautiful job with this production. Likely it's some delicious combination of all three.

As commanding as Sally is, she's not the only one on stage. With her the whole time is music director Andrew Bourgoin as accompanist Manny. I was lucky enough to be sitting near the front on the piano side of the stage, where I could watch his hands bouncing off the keys or softly caressing them. As Manny, he also provides a nice foil for Maria, mostly listening quietly and occasionally interrupting reluctantly to keep things on track. Kira Lace Hawkins, in Jan Brady hair, has a nice turn as student Sophie, with a voice as rich, smooth, and delicious as melted chocolate. Opera singers Benjamin Dutcher and Kelsey Stark O'Emilio also lend their gorgeous voices to the roles of eager students Anthony and Sharon.

Theater Latte Da could not have picked a better location for this play. Antonello Hall at the MacPhail Center for Music is a gorgeous, high-ceiling, pristine, sparsely furnished room that was built for sound. One of my favorite things that Maria says is "I don't believe in microphones, people have forgotten how to listen, if you can't hear me it's your fault." No amplification is necessary in this space with these trained artists, and the sound is exquisite. I also appreciated the costumes (by Willene Mangham). They definitely have a '70s vibe, but it's subtle and doesn't overpower the simple directness of the story.

Theater Latte Da's Master Class is everything. It's funny, completely engaging, poignant, touching, entertaining, and features beautiful music. In short, a smart, funny, clever, meaningful play, sublimely executed by Theater Latte Da. Head to the MacPhail Center for Music in downtown Minneapolis between now and November 2 to experience this exquisite production.

I'll leave you with a quote from Maria Callas: "The only thanks I ask is that you sing properly and honestly." A great motto for not just art, but life.

Sally Wingert Shines as the Core of Master Class

City PagesBy Ed Huyck October 14, 2014

While talking about performing with Theatre Latte Da in Master Class last week, Sally Wingert said she would would do "Mary Had a Little Lamb" if director Peter Rothstein was in charge. It's safe to say that I -- or any theatergoer -- would definitely pay to see Wingert read an evening of children's verse. Heck, I'd come out for a night of dramatized eBay listings for refurbished auto parts if Wingert was involved.

The tremendously talented Wingert towers above Master Class, playing famed opera diva Maria Callas with tremendous wit, verve, and power.

Her strong performance, however, showcases the weaknesses in Terrance McNally's script, which is more clever than insightful, and struggles to get under the surface of this intriguing character.

During the 1950s and '60s, Callas cut a swath through the opera world and the upper reaches of European and American societies. Bold, opinionated, and extremely talented, Callas was as known for her fiery temperament and affair with Aristotle Onassis as she was for her performances in Tosca, Norma, and Macbeth.

McNally based the play on a series of master classes that Callas gave in 1971 and '72 at Julliard. Through the play, she works with a trio of singers, though the scenes are as much about her and her stories as the singers she is "helping" onstage.

While she's onstage (and talking) throughout, we only get clues from McNally's script as to what makes Callas tick. There is talk about how to be present onstage, and what kind of preparation you should do ahead of time to really feel the character and, in turn, the music, but that remains stubbornly superficial.

Wingert, however, is able to fill in the blanks left by the script. Her Callas is haunted by a career cut short, bitter resentment over the success of her rivals, and the failure of her time with Onassis. There is also a deep, abiding love of the music, which comes out as each of the students finds the depth and soul within their arias.

Kira Lace Hawkins is also very strong, playing aspiring singer Sophie DePalma as someone with a lot of nerves, but who finds great musical beauty (with Callas's help) when she sings.

Rothstein has crafted a solid production from beginning to end, with great acting, music, and an intriguing central character that only adds to the great year that Wingert has experienced in 2014.


Master Class Through November 2 Antonello Hall, MacPhail Center for Music 501 S. Second St., Minneapolis $35-$45 For tickets and more information, call 612.339.3003 or visit online.

After 'Master Class,' you'll want more; 'Wonderland' reading at the Weisman

Star TribuneBy Pamela Espeland October 14, 2014

Time flies during “Master Class,” the Tony-winning play by Terrence McNally that opened Friday. Not because it moves through the years – most of it takes place during a few hours on a single day – but because it’s over too soon and we’re left wanting more. More stories, more singing, and more Sally Wingert, who takes on the daunting role of diva Maria Callas and fills it with power and passion, hilarity and sorrow.

Theater Latté Da’s director, Peter Rothstein, set his production at MacPhail Center for Music’s Antonello Hall. Acoustically sublime, seating only about 250, it’s a place where real master classes take place. As the audience, we’re part of the play. The rest of the cast includes Andrew Gourgoin as Callas’ stoic pianist; Paul Von Stoetzel as a lumpish stagehand; and Kira Lace Hawkins, Benjamin Dutcher and Kelsey Stark D’Emilio as hopeful young Juilliard students who have signed up for their moments with La Divina. They come expecting pointers, praise, a brush with fame or “feedback,” a word Callas reacts to as if it were a cockroach in her dressing room. Each is berated and harshly critiqued, yet each is smart enough to listen, watch and learn.

The singing by Hawkins (Rothstein’s Sallie Bowles in “Cabaret”), Dutcher and D’Emilio is superb. (And super hard: famous arias by Bellini, Puccini and Verdi.) Except for a single unforgettable note, Wingert doesn’t sing (although she did as Fraulein Schneider in “Cabaret”); at this late stage, Callas had lost her voice. But she could teach, and she could remember moments from her incredible life.

Opera stars were yesterday’s supermodels, pursued by wealthy men, their lives tabloid fodder. At several moments during “Master Class,” the lights change and we’re drawn into Callas’ past, her years on the world’s stage, her suffering as an artist, her insecurities, rivalries, triumphs and fraught relationship with Aristotle Onassis, who sounds like a brute.

The first time Wingert as Callas steps back into memory, she does it without saying a word. As Hawkins sings an aria from “Macbeth,” Wingert walks slowly to the back of the stage, passes behind the piano, and leans against a wall. Standing still, facing away from us, she pulls our whole attention like a magnet, and we know, or think we know, where she is: on stage at La Scala. That’s acting. When she voices the single syllable “O!” (which she does often throughout the play, as an exclamation), it comes from deep in her chest, carrying weight and sometimes pain.

And yet, despite the awareness that we’re seeing a star fading – “Master Class” takes place five years before Callas’ death – this is a very funny play. Wingert slings zingers with abandon. On Joan Sutherland: “She did her best … A 12-foot Lucia de Lammermoor? I don’t think so.” On stage behavior: “Never move on your applause. It shortens it.” Calling in a student: “Next victim!” There’s a lot of laughter in Antonello Hall, something we weren’t expecting, and one of the reasons we wished the play were longer than its two hours. Through Nov. 2. FMI and tickets ($35–$45). Tip: The center of the hall is raked, the sides are not. While we generally like sitting on the sides at Antonello, if you’re behind someone tall, your view might be obstructed.

Sally Wingert is masterful in 'Master Class'

Star TribuneBy Graydon Royce October 13, 2014

REVIEW: Sally Wingert slips into the restless and enigmatic skin of legendary soprano Maria Callas in “Master Class.”

Maria Callas is hectoring a student about “presence.”

“I’m drinking water and I have presence!” she insists.

It is a throwaway moment dramatically, but it says so much about the opera legend in “Master Class.”

Callas was that rare creature who we suspect sprang into existence fully formed from the forehead of Apollo. She became an open heart in performance, daring her voice with reckless performances and leaving a bit of her soul of stage so that audiences would remember the night they saw Callas.

Actor Sally Wingert has taken the prodigious legend on her shoulders in Theater Latté Da’s production of “Master Class,” which playwright Terrence McNally crafted from sessions Callas held with voice students at Juilliard in the early 1970s.

“Master Class” is not a great play. It lurches in spots and occasionally goes maudlin. Don’t see it for that reason. Do see it, though, for the opportunity McNally has created to study a character whose very life was a performance. Director Peter Rothstein stages this work in a recital hall — Antonello Hall at the MacPhail Center for Music — and that intimacy only makes Wingert’s work more immediate and real. Callas was human, we sometimes forget, and Wingert pours out all the tools of her humanity to make the case.

As she enters the stage, Wingert’s Callas knows who she is and knows she need not impress anyone with airs. She shares chatty, self-deprecating banter with the audience, comments on the lack of a cushion on her stool, displays her awkward social graces with the pianist who will help her coach these students. It is small-bore acting, realistic and never aware of itself.

Students (victims, she calls them, shouting out, “Next victim please!”) enter her orbit, hoping to grab a bit of the fairy dust in the atmosphere she breathes. The leonine diva prowls, snaps, interrupts and begs these young singers to know what she knows and feel what she feels. At the least, she barks, enunciate the words and listen to the music for the journey it lays out. “It is all in the music,” she says many times.

Wingert’s performance is worth seeing. She becomes almost invisible in her emotional transformation (give Rothstein much credit for that) and she accomplishes this through an articulate technique: her voice is deep in the back of the throat, her gestures never wasted. The wig (Robert Dunn) and costume (Willene Mangham) provide even more cover for Wingert.

McNally chose music for this play that resonated with Callas’s life and career. As the singers perform, Wingert’s character recedes into herself. We see regret, age and vulnerability in Callas’s inability to leap the chasm of time to past glory. We also see the impact her blunt pestering of the student has. In the case of Kira Lace Hawkins’ Sophie, a transcendent performance; Kelsey Stark D’Emilio’s Sharon, on the other hand, rebukes Callas’ lack of generosity and slips in the dagger of truth that this old lady’s salad days are long past.

Andrew Bourgoin is accompanist and music director for this production. The character is a prop but the musical underpinning is essential.

Indeed, Callas is right. She and this play — this experience — is worth our presence.

Graydon Royce •

'Master Class' review: Sally Wingert masters Maria Callas

Pioneer PressBy Renee Valois October 12, 2014

"Master Class" is supposed to be about a class that opera diva Maria Callas taught at the Juilliard School of Music back in the early 70s. But it's actually a master turn in acting by Sally Wingert.

Minnesota audiences are notorious for giving practically every production they see a standing ovation, but here it's justified. Wingert puts on a clinic. She's sublimely convincing as the diva with a dominating ego who is cruelly critical of others, partly due to her own insecurities.

Terrence McNally's script makes Callas funny as well as harsh, and Director Peter Rothstein and Wingert make the most of it. Wingert owns the stage.

It was inspired of Rothstein to place Theater Latte Da's show in a performance hall at an actual music school, MacPhail Center for Music. As we enter, there are chairs set up facing the stage as if for students, giving us the sense that we are actually entering a real master class. Callas also talks to us as if we are her pupils, bringing the conceit of the show to life.

Her patient pianist, Manny (Andrew Bourgoin), becomes the gofer of the diva as Callas torments her "victims," three young would-be opera singers. Kira Lace Hawkins, Benjamin Dutcher and Kelsey Stark D'Emilio sing in turns as Callas' pupils -- and provide emotional responses to her blunt critiques. Her first student can't even finish the first note before Callas stops her.

As they are tormented, we are treated -- to powerful voices and soaring high notes from the performers, who have sung in operas here and elsewhere.

D'Emilio is especially noteworthy and is the only one to give as good as she gets to Callas. Yet Callas does improve the craft of each of the trio, who learn to bring passion to their performances.

Lighting dims around Wingert and her spotlight softens and changes in hue to signal moments of memory, when we go into the mind of Callas and discover the demons that plague her. There's narcissism in Callas' view of the world, but we learn that she suffered (or at least thinks she did) in homage to her craft, that her sister was lauded for her beauty while she was the "ugly" one, and that Ari (longtime lover Aristotle Onassis) did a number on her self-esteem.

Even as we dislike the way Callas treats her vulnerable students, we see the fragility hidden in the core of the dominating diva exposed in Wingert's portrayal -- and it drives us, defenseless, into empathy.

It's a thrilling performance.

What: "Master Class"

Where: Theater Latte Da at MacPhail Center for Music, 501 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis

When: Through November 2

Tickets: $31-45

Information: 612-339-3003;

Capsule: Masterful acting makes this a performance to remember

Master Class produced by Theater Latte Da at McPhail Center for Music

How was the ShowBy Janet Preus October 12, 2014

Imagine sitting as an observer in a master class taught by Maria Callas, the enormously gifted and equally controversial singer who literally changed 20th century opera in her relatively short lifetime. This is the world we’re part of in Theater Latte Da’s production of Terrence McNally’s “Master Class.” Sally Wingert as the famous diva is fabulous, owning the stage, just as Callas did.

It is set—perfectly—in Antonello Hall, a true recital performance space in MacPhail’s Center for Music. There’s a Steinway concert grand piano, a small table, a stool (which Callas finds too high and so demands a footstool). She places her large handbag on the table and intermittently rummages around in it, pulling out a pair of glasses or a handkerchief for the student she has reduced to tears.

This is all that’s needed to engage us. We have the great Maria Callas in front of us, and we pay attention to her every word, even when the words are self-indulgent or don’t make sense.  “Art is domination,” she says, and the audience is the “enemy” that must be won over. Seconds later she announces that “art is collaboration.” Ok. In Callas’ estimation, it is both. For today. She also says of her equally famous contemporary, Joan Sutherland, “She did her best. That’s all any of us can do.” This audience laughed, of course.

Often thought to be the best as an actress in opera than anybody, it takes someone with Wingert’s presence and style to command equal attention. Not a small thing! Wingert conveys with such passion Callas’ message, which is not about herself; it is about the music. “It’s the work that matters,” she says, pushing again and again to have her student singers “feel,” not perform, and to pay attention to every possible detail.  “The music, Sophia,” she tells her student. “It’s all there!”

Kira Lace Hawkins plays, “the first victim,” as Callas jokes. “You’ll catch on to my sense of humor. Some people think I don’t have one.  (pause) Tenors.” (Big audience laugh.) Hawkins has a list of major musical theater roles in her resume, but nicely assumes the role of the eager student, Sophia DePalma. She clearly has a wonderful voice; Callas finds other flaws. “You need a look,” she snaps. “Get one!”

Benjamin Dutcher, fresh out of college, plays the eager Anthony Candolino and quite believably brings Callas near tears with his touching Puccini aria. He is one to watch.

Kelsey Stark D’Emilio is the powerhouse singer in this trio of student roles, playing Sharon Graham, who not only sings her way through multiple pieces in Verdi’s “Macbeth,” but also faces down her teacher, generating all the blushing frustration of a real-life encounter.

Andrew Bourgoin plays Manny Weinstock, the coach accompanist, whose name Callas can’t seem to remember. Bourgoin is an accomplished pianist, with serious singing and acting chops to boot.

Paul Von Stoetzel, known more for his film work in the Twin Cities, plays the stagehand who puts up with Callas’ demands, but barely. His heavy walk, sullen expression (and tattooed arms) were spot on.

We step out of our observer roles just two times, as Callas remembers both great and painful turning point experiences in her past. The device, done with simple lighting changes, felt like a device, but Callas’ speeches are delivered so beautifully by Wingert, that we were quickly drawn away from the master class itself, and smoothly returned to our observer role.

These flashbacks serve to give us a larger picture, one that includes Callas as a lonely woman, whose choices have forced her into battles with the opera world, the press and the general public. Wingert gives us the demanding star, but we also see the unhappy and isolated woman, too.

Some of the play is fiction, no doubt, and some is fact, or the playwright’s interpretation of it, but this line I choose to believe: “I am certain that what we do matters,” she says.

The show runs through Nov. 2. Recommended!

Sally Wingert Prepares for Challenges of Master Class

City PagesBy Ed Huyck October 9, 2014

Tackling Terrence McNally's Master Class -- his examination of the life, career, and soul of real-life opera diva Maria Callas -- is not something to be done lightly. Theatre Latte Da's Peter Rothstein knows this, as he directed the show for Park Square more than a decade ago.

Prime among the concerns? Having a strong actor in mind for the main role.

Enter Sally Wingert.

"I'd work with Peter if he was doing Mary Had a Little Lamb," Wingert says. In fact, the veteran performer was honored last month with an Ivey Award for her work this year, including in Latte Da's Cabaret. "I'm not a musical-theater performer, so to have two shows with Theater Latte Da in one season is fantastic."

Master Class features Callas as a number of young aspiring singers. As they perform, Callas is taken into memories of her career and life.

"It is about performance," Rothstein says. "The performances of the other four can't be 'act-y' at all. They have arcs and character traits. They have to have stakes in the game, but it can't be acting."

Wingert's challenges start with the person herself. Callas was a larger-than-life character who is considered one of the top opera singers of the 20th century. McNally based the play on a series of master classes she gave in 1971 and 1972, after her retirement and a few years before her death.

"At its core, it is a pretty fascinating character study. You could do the narrative in one sentence," Rothstein says. "It is telling that Callas was a singer, not an instrumentalist. She is her own instrument and only instrument. Like an actor, people are always judging you. You are most vulnerable when you have given all of your life to it. What happens when it goes? What's left?"

"[Callas] was someone who was literally a diva. On one side there is hubris and the other side is insecurity. At any time, you are dealing with extremes. It is very exciting that way," Rothstein says.

"There is a great deal about her. She was interviewed on TV, and you can hear the master classes. She is fascinating. Anybody would find her interesting," Wingert says.

Wingert found additional kinship with Callas, who struggled with her weight. "I border between attractive and not-attractive. I know what it is like walking around not feeling attractive," she says.

The performance has also opened up Wingert's interest in opera. "I'm listening to the three pieces in the show. When I'm biking home, I find one of the phrases has caught in my head like a little earworm," she says.

For this production, Rothstein chose the Antonello Hall at the MacPhail Center for Music in downtown Minneapolis. "The room has fewer bells and whistles this time. There's not scenery and seven light cues. You enter the theater and you are already on the set," he says.

"The space works like gangbusters," Wingert says. IF YOU GO:

Master Class In previews today; opens Friday through November 2 Antonello Hall, MacPhail Center for Music 501 S. Second St., Minneapolis $35-$45 For tickets and more information, call 612.339.3003 or visit online.

Theater Latte Da's Master Class: Eight things to expect

MPRBy Jay Gabler October 10, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — Theater Latte Da is presenting Terrence McNally's Master Class at MacPhail Center for the Arts' Antonello Hall. If you're considering attending this play about the later years of legendary soprano Maria Callas, here are eight things to expect.


1. Expect to hear Maria Callas — but not Sally Wingert — sing. Though Callas is heard in recordings, her character — played by Sally Wingert — does not sing. Her students, however — played by Kira Lace Hawkins, Kelsey Stark D'Emilio, and Benjamin Dutcher — do sing, and quite well.


2. Expect a beautiful venue. If you haven't been to the stunning recital hall at MacPhail, find an opportunity to do so. Designed by architect James Dayton, the space opened in 2008; it's an apt venue for this production.


3. Expect to bone up on your Callas history. The program has a two-page timeline of Callas's life; I found myself consulting it multiple times.


4. Expect to be curious about who "Ari" is. For the uninitiated: the "Ari" Callas repeatedly mentions is Aristotle Onassis, the Greek magnate who had an affair with Callas until Onassis broke it off to marry Jacqueline Kennedy. ("There [was] just a natural curiosity," explained Onassis about the circumstances under which he and Callas hooked up. "After all, we were the most famous Greeks alive in the world.")


5. Expect Ivey buzz for Wingert, who excels in this showcase role that's been played by Tyne Daly, Patti LuPone, and Faye Dunaway. The Ivey Awards, though, could hardly honor Wingert any more than they already have; at last month's ceremony, Wingert was honored for her performances in four (!) different roles last year.


6. Expect some sweet 70s duds. The play is inspired by master classes Callas taught at Juilliard in the early 70s, and costume designer Willene Mangham has fun recreating the era — especially with the colorful costume worn by Hawkins.


7. Expect to reach for some opera afterwards. The three selections performed in Master Class are Amina's sleepwalking aria from Bellini's La sonnambula, Lady Macbeth's aria "Vieni! t'affretta" from Verdi's Macbeth, and Mario Cavaradossi's aria in the first act of Puccini's Tosca.


8. Expect to argue about the scriptMaster Class won the 1996 Tony Award for Best Play, but some think it hasn't aged well: "Master Class is not, by even a generous reckoning, a very good play, though it can be an entertaining one," wrote Ben Brantley recently in the New York Times. "Mr. McNally (whose earlier Lisbon Traviata, which took a more indirect look at Callas, is a very good play) is an opera buff who here mixed a passionate fan's knowledge of myth, gossip and music into one pulpy, Broadway-ripe package."

Master Class plays through Nov. 2. Among the scheduled post-show discussions is an Oct. 23 conversation with Classical MPR's Julie Amacher. At 8:45 a.m. on Oct. 16, listen as Wingert, Hawkins, and director Peter Rothstein join John Birge on Classical MPR to talk about Master Class and perform selections from the show.

1 week, 2 openings: Peter Rothstein's 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'Master Class'

MinnPostBy Pamela Espeland October 9, 2014

Peter Rothstein is living the dream. He has two plays opening this weekend, Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” at Open Book and Terrence McNally’s “Master Class,” a fictionalized account of the time soprano Maria Callas spent coaching students at Juilliard, at MacPhail Center for Music. He’s directing the Shakespeare for Ten Thousand Things and the McNally for his own Theater Latté Da. This is his fourth time working for TTT, his first Shakespeare, and his second go at “Master Class,” which he directed for Park Square Theater in 2001.

We started off talking about “Romeo and Juliet.” TTT, if you haven’t yet seen the work of Michelle Helmsley’s innovative company, starts each run in prisons, shelters and other nontraditional spaces before moving into Open Book for public performances. It’s theater in a suitcase, flexible and spare.

MinnPost: Besides the challenges of minimal sets, no lighting, no sound, no backstage, being semi-itinerant and performing in prisons, what is unique about directing for Ten Thousand Things?

Peter Rothstein: Every director should have this challenge on a regular basis, because it’s easy to let those other things distract us. It really gets down to story, and how you use actors to tell a story. That’s thrilling as much as it’s challenging.

One thing that’s so great about Ten Thousand Things is they prioritize actors and pay actors well. When you’re dealing essentially with text and actors, they have to carry 90 percent of the story. Actors want to do the work. It’s satisfying work. So while you’re denied some of the other things, you have the luxury of working with the best actors in the city. I have seven Equity actors in this show. That doesn’t happen very often for me.

MP: Do you find the stripped-down nature of these productions limiting or liberating?

PR: Always liberating. That’s how I grew up. I was directing Broadway musicals on a dime from my early days. Whenever I teach directing, I always say, “Your limitations are your greatest source of creativity.” You end up making choices based on what-ifs. If I can’t have this, then what if this?

In the case of “Romeo and Juliet,” I knew I wanted one of [the leads] to be an actor of color. The Nurse and the Friar are sympathetic characters, the voices of conscience in the play, and I didn’t want them both to be white actors. How do I [treat] family units in a color-blind casting approach? And how do I take a play with 40 characters and tell it with eight actors? Limitations end up exercising your point of view, your theatrical notions and impulses.

MP: This is your first Shakespeare. What was the hardest part?

PR: Probably – and this is often the case – the fear before jumping in. Once I jumped in, I felt quite at ease. First, I needed to tackle the cutting, since I knew we weren’t going to do the whole play.

MP: You did the cutting?

PR: I did all the cutting, and I ended up loving that process. You have to learn a play really well in order to cut it. You have to learn what every word means and track all of the storytelling pieces. It was kind of a full-time job for about two months.

My associate director, Carla Noack, has done a lot of Shakespeare, and I emailed her the first act after I finished the cutting and said, “Have I cut anything sacred or committed blasphemy?” She said, “For some people, cutting a word would be sacrilege, so you have to liberate yourself from that.”

To be honest, I didn’t know enough to know what was sacred and what wasn’t. So for me, it was a matter of what’s the story I need to tell? And how am I going to tell it? How do I distill this story down to its essence?

I honor iambic pentameter across the board. I never lost any rhyme structures. I didn’t lose any antithetical structures that [Shakespeare] built a lot of his language upon – when he takes words that are opposites and builds on them. I really didn’t change a word, and I didn’t rearrange text at all. [But] I bet I cut 35 percent of the play.

MP: What else makes this production different?

PR: The look of it is quite contemporary, because the story transcends time and the language is so boring to people. I wanted contemporary costumes and props so those things would create recognition, not more distance.

So, for example, when the set designer said, “Really, can it not just be a basic bottle? Does it need to be a bottle of Jack Daniels?” I said, “Yes, it has to be a bottle of Jack Daniels.” That wasn’t about being anachronistic for the sake of being clever, but to make the experience more immediate. Because Shakespeare’s theater was anachronistic. He put all of his characters in the dress of the day, even though many of his plays were set in times past.

We thought about a telephone at one point. But if they did have phones, Friar Laurence could have just called Romeo on the phone and we would have a happy ending.

MP: Let’s talk about “Master Class.” Why set it at MacPhail, in Antonello Hall?

PR: A great part of being an itinerant company is I get to say what play I want to do and choose the ideal space or neighborhood for that play … [Antonello] is the right venue for this show, and the acoustics are gorgeous.

The original master classes weren’t in a theater, they were in a recital hall. … The play will begin for people when they walk down the sidewalk into the building, because there will be kids walking up with their cellos and their violin cases.

MP: You’ve directed this play before. What made you want to do it again?

PR: I read it again, and I saw and heard things that didn’t resonate with me as deeply when I was in my early 30s, but they do now. A lot of this play is about a singer at the end of her career. When a voice is their instrument, their livelihood, their art, and they don’t have a voice anymore, what’s left? What is their legacy? For Callas, singing was a live art form. She wasn’t known for having a beautiful voice. She was known for her incredible interpretation and her acting. So her CDs are only a fraction of what she gave to the art form.

So much about this play is about legacy. When you don’t have children, what do you leave behind in the world?

MP: Are you having those thoughts yourself?

PR: Yeah. I’m in my late 40s. As a person whose art is temporal, it’s nice to have your work recognized and celebrated, but it closes. It’s not a painting that can live on a wall. It’s not a film that can live on a piece of plastic or in the Ethernet somewhere. When what you do is temporal, what do you leave behind? That’s the real question.

MP: So this play feels more personal to you now than it did before.

PR: Much more.

MP: Are you approaching it differently?

PR: I am. And it’s interesting to talk about this against “Romeo and Juliet” when they’re so wildly different. My work with Ten Thousand Things has given me confidence in what I need or don’t need to create a piece of theater. So there will be only two light cues in “Master Class.” There’s no scenery, no bells and whistles. It’ll be house lights up, house lights down.

The Park Square production, while relatively simple, had a few bells and whistles and scenic tricks. This one will be much more stripped down, much more exposed. It’s going to be a pretty poignant telling.

MP: What is it like having two plays going at once? 

PR: In this business, you’re just so lucky to work. The riches of it are a real luxury, but the work is most satisfying when you can completely immerse yourself and lose yourself in the given world of a play. Now I get to do that in two plays. But you have to be careful. I knew “Master Class” intimately, and I needed to make sure I had “Romeo and Juliet” on its feet before I could start to think about “Master Class.” … I haven’t done this in a long time, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless it’s work you really know.


Public performances of Ten Thousand Things’ “Romeo and Juliet” start Friday, Oct. 10 atOpen Book. The play moves to the Minnesota Opera Center for its final weekend. FMI and tickets ($30 general admission). Through Nov. 2.

Theater Latté Da’s “Master Class” opens Saturday, Oct. 11 at Antonello Hall in MacPhail Center for MusicFMI and tickets ($35–$45). Through Nov. 2.

Theater: 'Bigger than big' soprano Maria Callas recalled in 'Master Class'

Star TribuneBy Graydon Royce October 9, 2014

Director Peter Rothstein and star Sally Wingert consider the complex life of fierce diva Maria Callas in “Master Class.”

Peter Rothstein generally does not revisit shows he has directed — annual holiday remounts notwithstanding.

The Theater Latté Da artistic director has made an exception with “Master Class,” which opens Saturday at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis. Terrence McNally based his 1995 play on a series of master classes Maria Callas held at Juilliard in the early 1970s. Thirteen years after he first directed the show, Rothstein felt that it would be a good character study for his friend and frequent collaborator Sally Wingert.

“She was an artist,” Wingert said of the famous soprano before a recent rehearsal. “Callas never calls singing a craft. It’s an art.”

Callas was among the most serious artists who gave themselves to opera. Fierce in her singing, temperamental and deeply emotional, Callas brought an intensely dramatic interpretation to her roles. Her voice was perhaps not the best — critics considered it shrill at the top end — but Callas was a creature of nature who dominated audiences with breathtaking confidence and artistry.

‘Bigger than big’

“She was bigger than big,” Wingert said. “She’s on a par with Marilyn Monroe as far as iconic 20th-century women.” It is tricky to find an analog for Callas among today’s opera superstars. Anna Netrebko, who is singing Lady Macbeth to fabulous reviews at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, draws comparisons for her stage presence, but opera in 2014 occupies less of the public consciousness than it did 70 years ago. The late tenor Luciano Pavarotti became a superstar who enjoyed broad popularity, and Renée Fleming introduced many Americans to the art when she sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl in February.

Otherwise, as Wingert asked, “Can you name five top sopranos in opera today?”

Beyond her stage presence, Callas became legendary for a personal life that became entangled with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis and the intrigue that followed his late-life romance with Jacqueline Kennedy.

Callas fought with impresarios and famously turned down an invitation to debut at the Met in the late 1940s because she felt she was “too fat” to play Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.” Although she would become a statuesque performer with sleek cheekbones and dark beauty, her early life affected her image.

“I did not know she was a fat, ugly girl, and she carried that bag around with her,” Wingert said.

A new appreciation of legacy

Rothstein, who directed Jodi Kellogg in the role at Park Square Theatre in January 2001, said he looks at the play differently now than he did almost 14 years ago.

“This idea of legacy, what she was leaving behind, feels much different to me at 48 than it did when I was 34,” he said. “The play feels more universal because of where I am.”

McNally’s play allows Callas flights of reverie, when she walks away from the class she is teaching. In these moments, the diva reflects on her life, which ended at age 53 in 1977 — a few years after her Juilliard sessions.

In an epilogue to the master classes, Callas wrote in 1972, “Whether I continue singing or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that you use whatever you have learned wisely.” How one spends the remaining days of a life, and looks back, is crucial to that sense of legacy, Rothstein said.

He also has grown in his appreciation for the vulnerability Callas allowed herself as a performer. Her reckless abandon in performance created an event — a lasting impression that superseded the opera. Callas would scold anyone who asserted that this was the case, such was her dedication to the pre-eminence of composers, but it’s true.

“I felt that watching Vanessa Redgrave in ‘Ghosts’ in the West End,” Rothstein said. “I could see how an audience clings to the memories of being at that performance, all experiencing it together.

“People who saw Callas say that same thing. I would give anything to have been able to see her in the theater.”

Lonely at the top

Wingert has been on a roll, playing characters that feel singular even if there are other actors on stage. Her turn in “The Receptionist” by Dark and Stormy in December focused on her, and she recently played the solo show “Rose” for Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company. There are several other actors in “Master Class,” but it’s really about Callas.

“I don’t really love one-person shows because they are so lonely,” Wingert said, half laughing. “I love the audience experience because it’s provocative to mix it up — so much is direct address. But the dressing room is kind of lonely.”

Being Callas on stage has a certain aloof requirement. She was unique, and in 1971 she was feeling a mortality that would have outstripped the glory of her memories. Those are, indeed, lonely moments.

Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299

Theater: Latté Da stirs Callas, Sondheim and more for 2014-15 season

Star TribuneBy Graydon Royce June 17, 2014

Theater Latté Da brings familiar faces to the stage in some unfamiliar places.

Sally Wingert, who played Fräulein Schneider in “Cabaret,” returns as Maria Callas in “Master Class.” The play shows Callas reflecting on her life and career as she coaches opera students at Juilliard. Artistic Director Peter Rothstein directed this Terrence McNally play at Park Square, way back in 2001. Andrew Bourgoin plays Callas’ accompanist and music director. “Master Class” opens the season (Oct. 8-Nov. 2) with performances at the MacPhail Center for Music — a venue Latté Da has never used.

For the third year, Latté Da will partner with Hennepin Theatre Trust to re-imagine a familiar musical. Well-known singer-actor Bradley Greenwald will play Fagin in “Oliver!” at the Pantages Theatre (Feb. 4-March 1). “Aida” opened the series in 2013 and “Cabaret” followed. “Oliver!” will feature 30 members of Minnesota Boychoir.

Greta Oglesby will make her Latté Da debut as the Witch in “Into the Woods,” the fairy tale mash-up by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. Oglesby is best known for her performance in the musical “Caroline or Change” at the Guthrie Theater. David Darrow, who played George Gibbs in Latté Da’s “Our Town,” has also been signed for “Into the Woods” (March 4-29, 2015) at the Ritz Theater in northeast Minneapolis, another new venue for Latté Da.

Rothstein will stage “All is Calm” with Cantus at the Pantages (Dec. 17-21). And the season will conclude with “Next: New Musicals in the Making” at the Ritz (April 30-May 17, 2015).

Playwrights' Center Announces McKnight Theater Artists

Star TribuneBy Graydon Royce June 12, 2014

The Playwrights’ Center has named Sally Wingert, Austene Van and Mathew LeFebvre as McKnight Theater Artists. The award comes with $25,000 and also provides $7,000 to develop new theatrical work.

Wingert has worked on Twin Cities stages for more than 30 years. In 2013, she was selected the Star Tribune’s Artist of the Year. She’s most often seen at the Guthrie Theater but has made significant contributions such as her performance in Theater Latte Da’s “Cabaret” in January and a leading role in Dark and Stormy’s small production of “The Receptionist” in December.

Van has worked as an actor, director and choreographer. She found her footing at Penumbra under Lou Bellamy and was seen there in “Spunk” last year. Van performed the title role in Latte Da’s “Aida” in 2013 and was Blanche Dubois in Ten Thousand Things’ staging of “A Street Car Named Desire.” She’s directed at Park Square, History Theatre and Theatre in the Round.

LeFebvre has designed costumes for more than 20 productions at the Guthrie and 15 at Penumbra – in addition to many other Twin Cities companies. His credits include shows at Signature Theatre in New York, Milwaukee Rep, the Geffen Playhouse, Minnesota Opera and Arizona Theatre Company. LeFebvre teaches and directs at the University of Minnesota. Jeremy Cohen, producing artistic director at the Playwrights’ Center, said LeFebvre is the first costume designed honored with the McKnight Award since 1997.

Last year’s winners – Sun Mee Chomet, Denise Prosek and Stephen Yoakam – will showcase their works in progress Monday at the Southern Theater.

Sally Awards' honorees; Theater Latté Da's new Season

MinnPostBy Pamela Espeland June 10, 2014

Each year for the past 22 years, the Sally Awards have honored not only artists, but also individuals and institutions that bring us artists and their art. This year’s Sally Awards, held last night at the Ordway, were dedicated to the memory of Sue McLean, the Twin Cities concert promoter who died last spring. The Education Award went to Elizabeth Jaakola, an Anashinaabe musician and educator from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe whose Indian name means “the lady who knows how to sing.” Kristine Sorensen, executive director of the local nonprofit media arts organization In Progress, which helps young people develop their skills as storytellers, artists and leaders, received the Initiative Award. Bluesman James Samuel Harris Sr., known to most of us as “Cornbread” Harris, won the Commitment Award for a lifetime of singing and playing piano in pool halls, bars, theaters and cafés. MacPhail Online, which began as a collaboration between MacPhail Center for Music and Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg junior-senior high school, took the Arts Access Award. The Vision Award went to Franconia Sculpture Park, a 30-acre space for large-scale sculpture in the St. Croix Valley, open to the public every day for free.

Franconia recently named its 2014 FSP/Jerome Artist Fellows and Open Studio Artist Fellows. All will create new 3-D art on site for the park’s 2014-15 public exhibition. Every Franconia fellowship artist received project funding up to $5,000 plus room and board, access to equipment and tools, workshop, mentoring and other advantages of collaboration in a focused artists’ community. The FSP/Jerome Artist fellows are (from Minnesota) the artist team Donald Myhre and Christina Ridolfi, and (from New York) Torkwase Dyson, Eric Forman, Kambui Olujimi, and the team Nathan Bennett and Meredith Nickie. Open Studio Artist fellows are Mike Calway-Fagen of Indiana, Chris Manzione of Pennsylvania, Samantha Persons of Illinois and Risa Puno of New York City. The new art will start appearing at Franconia in June.

The Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) and the McKnight Foundation have named the eight recipients of the 2014-15 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Visual Artists. One, David Bowen, is from Duluth, and the other seven – Sam Gould, Alexa Horochowski, Michael Hoyt, Alison Malone, Lamar Peterson, Joe Smith and Tetsuya Yamada – are based in the Twin Cities. They are professors, photographers, sculptors, painters, publishers, writers, editors, videographers, documentarians, studio artists, and community workers. Hoyt creates interactive sculptural installations in which public participation is a key component; Malone explores overlooked and misunderstood subcultures in American society; Peterson creates graphic portraits of an irrational world where happy characters are resolutely accepting of grotesque misfortune. Each will receive a $25,000 stipend, one of many benefits of this prestigious fellowship.

After a 2013-14 season that include a thrilling “Cabaret” at the Pantages and a touching “Our Town” at the Lab, Theater Latté Da has announced three new productions for 2014-15, all directed by Peter Rothstein. Oct. 8-Nov. 2 in MacPhail’s Antonello Hall: Terrence McNally’s “Master Class.” Imagine Maria Callas as your teacher. Now imagine Sally Wingert as Maria Callas. Set in a venue that has hosted several master classes, this is one you won’t want to miss. Feb. 4-March 1, 2015: “Oliver!” at the Pantages. Bradley Greenwald stars as the greedy Fagin, with 30 members of the Minnesota Boychoir as his gang of pickpockets. March 4-29 at the Ritz: “Into the Woods,” with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Greta Oglesby makes her Latté Da debut as the Witch; David Darrow, last seen as George Gibbs in “Our Town,” plays the Baker and Rapunzel’s Prince. Subscriptions are on sale now.

For 20 years, the Guthrie has been Joe Dowling’s theater. Who will take over when he leaves next June, just one short year from now? Graydon Royce explored that question in a thoughtful piece in Sunday’s Strib, and Rohan Preston threw out some names including Oskar Eustis of the Public Theater in New York, Kwame Kwei-Armah of Baltimore’s Center Stage, Tony winner Diane Paulus of Harvard’s American Repertory Theater, and Mark Rylance, former head of Shakespeare’s Globe. In a metro area with 90 active theaters, the Guthrie is the granddaddy, with three stages in its own big building on the Mississippi and an annual budget of $27 million. So it matters who sits in Dowling’s chair, and how many hats the new person wears.

In its own smaller, humbler building – the garage behind the Longfellow home of co-artistic directors Paul Herwig and Jennifer Ilse – Off-Leash Area last weekend gave a limited run of its new production “Stripe & Spot (learn to) Get Along.” The play goes on tour to garages in Stillwater, Brooklyn Park, Circle Pines, Isanti and other places starting on Labor Day. We’ll let you know more details when we can, because you don’t want to skip this. We saw a preview, which we’re not supposed to write about, so we can’t say much except … wow. The title makes the play (conceived by Herwig and Ilse and developed with the other cast members, Taous Claire Khazem and Jesse Schmitz Boyd) sound pedantic. Instead, it’s wildly imaginative, sophisticated and very funny. It’s billed as a family show, but we promise grown-ups won’t be bored.

This summer, Hennepin Theatre Trust will replace the seats on the main floor of the Orpheum Theatre. Dating from 1921, when the Orpheum first opened as the Hennepin Theater, the old seats have been refurbished and repaired countless times, and trying to find replacement parts in 2014 is a bit like finding them for a Model T. Many people won’t miss them in the least. But if you love the old seats and the nearly 100 years of history they represent, a limited number will be available for sale to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Learn more and add your name to a waiting list here. We’re told the new seats will be more comfy – more air in the cushions, slightly higher backs. Plus they’ll have brass plaques you can pay to put your name on. The balcony seats will be replaced later, probably in 2015.

Tonight at Washburn Library in Minneapolis: SOSMN Community Meeting. One of the good things to come out of the Minnesota Orchestra lockout was the rise of grassroots organizations including Save Our Symphony Minnesota, whose members worked tirelessly to keep the orchestra in the public awareness, end the lockout and bring back Osmo Vänskä as music director. The protest, with padlock, at Symphony Ball 2013? SOSMN’s idea. The “Finnish It” campaign, with all those blue-and-white Finnish flags waving in Orchestra Hall? SOSMN again. Now SOSMN is working with the Minnesota Orchestral Association board and staff members on various projects aimed at marketing, fundraising and broadening the audience. Tonight’s meeting is open to the public, and that includes you. 6 p.m.

Tonight at the Normandale Lake Bandshell in Bloomington: Great Music for the Great Outdoors. The Minnesota Symphonic Winds, led by Edina High School band director Paul Kile, plays a selection of marches, band classics, and dance music including a new piece by young Minnesota composer Christopher Neiner, plus music by Verdi, Gershwin, and Victor Herbert. 7 p.m. Free.

Wednesday at SubText Books in St. Paul: Rachel Freed, “Your Legacy Matters: Harvesting the Love and Lessons of Your Life: A Multi-Generational Guide for Writing Your Ethical Will.” What should we leave to our children and their children? Freed suggests a series of “legacy letters” articulating our values, history, successes, failures, triumphs, hopes and despairs. The book sounds like a great Dad’s Day gift, despite the clunky title/subtitle/sub-subtitle. 7 p.m.

Thursday at Harriet Brewing: Mad Ripple Hootenanny. “Tonight we hoot.” In Nov. 2006 , writer/singer/songwriter Jim Walsh brought songwriters together for a one-night-only round-robin of original songs and stories. Almost eight years later, the Mad Ripple Hootenanny is still going strong. In the tap room. Food truck: Moral Omnivore. 5:30 p.m. Free.

Thursday at the Minnesota Museum of American Art Project Space in St. Paul: Opening reception for “2014 MN Biennial.” An MMAA tradition returns. The juried exhibition features the work of 36 Minnesota artists including Betsy Byers, Jaron Childs, Pete Driessen, Selma Fernandez Richter, Maren Kloppmann, Todd Thybeg, Dyani White Hawk, and Sarita Zaleha. Paintings, photography, sculpture, installations, ceramics and more. Exhibition continues through Aug. 3. 7-8:30 p.m. Free.

Thursday at Victory Memorial Drive and 34th Ave. in Minneapolis: Live on the Drive. Presented by the Cleveland Neighborhood Association and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, now in its 7th year, Live on the Drive features live music followed by a movie at dusk. Thursday’s artist: Thomasina Petrus (“Lady Day at Emerson Bar and Grill”). Thursday’s movie: “Remember the Titans.” 6 p.m. Free. Share on printShare on email