"All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914" at the Pantages Theatre: We Will Remember Them

December 24th, 2013Written by: Claire Matthews-Lingen Published by: Twin Cities Daily Planet

All Is Calm, The Christmas Truce of 1914 is a beautiful, interpretive show. All Is Calm is being preformed by Theater LatteDa at Pantages Theater in Minneapolis from Dec-19 through the 22. This show is very simple and while a little dull it was done well and had a plain elegance to it. Plus the singers were phenomenal. This play is set on Christmas day 1914. The story is made up of songs from that time period and well known christmas carols, along with three men sharing quotes and memories from troops who were a part of this christmas miracle. There are nine singers who maintain the music in the background nearly the whole show and when they stopped it was only for dramatic effect. All of the singing in All Is Calm is very calm, full of layers and all of it is a capella. Then there are these three men who have speaking roles and they keep the story rolling. There was no real plot to the show, it was more of an interpretive piece of, musical art or memoir of that day 100 years ago. The signers and speakers blended together and did an amazing job.

There were no company members that particularly stood out, because they all just fit so well as an ensemble. But the direction by director, Peter Rothstein was exceptional. And the staging for this show was also really well done. The set consisted of low to the ground platforms arranged in a semi-circle, the platforms were layered on top of each other. There were also three wooden milk crates arranged downstage of the wooden platforms. The Actors brought these crates out on stage with them and moved them around the stage as the show went on. This set was so simple and it really brought theater back to basics. There is a rule in theater about the suspension of disbelief that the audience is using while watching your show. All Is Calm really allowed for that. Each audience member got to lead the show with their own imagination. All Is Calm had no real flair to it, but it was a nice change from other large productions, that can get over whelmed by the special effects and sets and costumes that they have access to. The performers in this show wore simple black clothing, hats and gloves. As far as special effects go All Is Calm only used some slight fog/smoke and, well placed fake snow, which was quietly gorgeous. The lighting designed by Marcus Dilliard, fit the show perfectly. Whenever one of the actors spoke, a single spotlight would fall onto him, this seemed to resemble a light, shining in the middle of a crazy time of war. A light on Christmas day 1914. A line from a soldier’s memoir that particularly stood out was “maybe if the solders had gone on strike, revolted or called a truce the war could of ended right then and there... but then again maybe not.” After all they were still in a war and just one magical night couldn’t change that. This show had a good balance of beauty, but still showing the reality of that time. The music was amazing and the pieces all matched up to make a calm and impactful show. This show is definitely worth attending

Jazz, holiday music are among best bets for Dec. 20-26

December 19th, 2013Written by: Dominic P. Papalota Published by: Pioneer Press

Theater: All Is Calm

Through Dec. 22: A few years ago, Theatre Latte Da dispensed with its goofy perennial holiday show ("A Christmas Carole Petersen") and, joining with men's vocal musical ensemble Cantus, developed this more serious-minded work. It depicts the real-life story of a spontaneous holiday truce on the Western Front that briefly made a corner of World War I a peaceful place. Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.; $37-$28; 800-982-2787 or HennepinTheatreTrust.org. -- Dominic P. Papatola

"All is Calm" by Theater Latte Da at the Pantages Theatre

December 21st, 2013Written by: Jill Published by: www.cherryandspoon.com

If you see one Christmas-themed theatrical event this year, let it be All is Calm. Unlike most Christmas shows, there is not a red and green banner, brightly wrapped present, or figgy pudding in sight. It does not present the usual frenetic cheery energy associated with the holiday. Instead it is quiet and lovely, joyous and melancholy, celebrating a remarkable event when soldiers put down their weapons and shared the spirit of peace across enemy lines for one brief and beautiful moment. Created by Peter Rothstein and presented annually byTheater Latte Da and Hennepin Theatre TrustAll is Calm tells the story of the 1914 Christmas Truce during the first year of WWI, in which soldiers along both sides of the trenches on the Western Front stopped fighting and met in no man's land to exchange photos and stories, bury the dead, play football, and sing carols. This story is told simply on a bare stage with only some wooden platforms and crates as set pieces, with three actors bringing to life the words from actual letters, articles, and other historical documents, illuminated by songs performed by the marvelous nine-man a capella vocal ensemble Cantus. It's a perfect marriage of music and storytelling, not the story of specific people or characters, but rather the story of peace in the midst of war. What better representation of the spirit of the season?

The piece runs a short 75-minutes, a seamless flow from beginning to end. The songs are structured to tell the story of young men enthusiastically heading off to war, experiencing the fear and drudgery that is the reality of war, finding a brief reprieve one snowy Christmas day, and then being reluctantly forced back to reality as the cease-fire ends. Traditional British, French, and German Christmas carols like "Good King Wenceslas," "Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella," and "Es ist ein Ros entsprungen" (one of my favorites), are combined with war songs both spirited and somber. The songs are perfectly chosen to evoke the feeling at each point in the story, and complement the words spoken by the actors sporting a wide variety of accents (Matt Rein, David Roberts, and Alan Sorenson).

If you've never seen Cantus before, you are in for a treat. They are nine gorgeous voices perfectly blended in multi-layered harmony so beautiful, it's tempting to just close your eyes and let it wash over you (purchase music here, including the soundtrack of All is Calm). But the men of Cantus are not just singers here, they're actors as well as they play the parts of soldiers. Actors and singers are dressed alike in warm black layers, adding hats and gloves as the weary night continues. They fill the space in beautifully staged movement, sometimes standing at attention, sometimes laughing and joking and shaking hands.

All is Calm is one of those shows that induces a trance-like state, aided by the fact that it's constructed with no applause breaks. The cycle of song - applause - song - applause can break the flow of the story, and there's none of that here. Just one long swell of music, words, and emotion. When the show was over, the trance continued as I walked out into the dark night with snow softly falling, the strains of "peace on earth" reverberating in my ears, the lovely and bittersweet feeling of the show remaining with me. This is the third time I've seen the show, and I think I love it more each time I see it. Only four performances remain, two today and two tomorrow. Take a break from the frantic holiday season to soak in the peace and beauty of All is Calm.

THEATER REVIEW | "All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914" finds peace at the Pantages Theatre

December 19, 2013Written by: Betsy Gabler Published by: Twin Cities Daily Planet

Al Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 is enjoying its sixth anniversary (and six performances only) from December 19-22, 2013 at the Pantages Theatre. Featuring Cantus, an accomplished vocal ensemble along with three actors, Theater Latte Da’s artistic director Peter Rothstein artfully recalls the historic foot soldier-created truce between WWI’s Allied and German forces over Christmas 1914.

Although an astounding moment in history, few of us were schooled in details about the truce. Rothstein’s inspired development of this production took five years, visits to the Western Front, and extensive research in Brussels, Ieper, Paris and London. This approx. 90-minute, no-intermission production tells the story of how active-duty soldiers working, literally sometimes just feet from each other, decide to lay down arms for at least one night (and in some locations, a few nights).

Artfully presented, the production begins with a Christmas carol prelude by Cantus. English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams created this particular arrangement for his own battalion. Throughout the performance, Cantus members hauntingly, heartily and authentically sing in the various languages of the troops or accents of the soldiers. The remarkable vocals gave me equal amounts of goose bumps and tears throughout the performance (a nod to musical arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach).

The staging is simple: a riser created with logs, crates for sitting, a pin light curtain, a full moon and graceful moments of falling snow or eerie fog. Perhaps it’s this minimalism and the black and grey costuming that unites the actors with the chorus members seamlessly. It also creates the illusion audience that we are indeed in the trenches.

The actors, Matt Rein, David Roberts and Alan Sorenson, narrate the performance with excerpts of actual letters from the soldiers. Their accents seem authentic, the projection is perfect and a true sense of camaraderie is extended out to the audience with very little theatrics. The letters provide vivid details, some humorous, all heartfelt about how stunned the soldiers were that a truce, albeit short, happened at all. An allied soldier expresses to his family his disappointment with the fact that “we” made the first kill when the truce was over, not the Germans. The authors’ names, rank, and battalion are cited at the end of each delivery. This adds a personal element that makes hearing the words even more profound. A favorite line was towards the end when one letter notes that soldiers were able to create something even the Pope could not: a peaceful Christmas day. (We’re told at the beginning that Allied leaders refused the Pope’s idea for a battle ground truce that year, although the Germans had agreed to it.)

The production and theater provides the audience with a helpful, detailed program that shares pictures, short bios, and other relevant information about the truce itself. Of particular interest are the four soldier poets of World War I that are introduced. It allows the audience to bring the story back home and extend the experience of learning about a poignant part of world history.

As a singular performance, this was moving and heartfelt. As a Christmas tradition, it provides opportunity for intergenerational conversation. My guest this evening was a woman whose grandfather served in World War I. She was struck by the beautiful sound of Cantus, but also remarked about the dignity this production offered the individual soldiers. All too often, it seems, that we the public are presented with vague information about fallen, or even active duty soldiers. A particular pet peave of mine is when an individual soldier is referred to as a “troop.” It is sons and daughters, fathers and mothers who are killed in war, not a troop. It is my opinion that individual stories deserve recognition just as they are presented in this production. Well done, Mr. Rothstein!

Note: TPT's "MN O: Minnesota Original" airs "The Making of Peter Rothstein's 'All Is Calm'" on occasion.

Theater Latte Da's ALL IS CALM Opens Tonight at the Pantages Theatre

December 19th, 2013Written by: BWW News Desk Published by: www.broadwayworld.com

All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 opens next week, playing tonight, December 19-22, 2013 at the Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN.

All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 by Peter Rothsteinfeatures music arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach and will be directed by Peter Rothstein.

A co-production of Cantus, Theater Latté Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust.

The Western Front, Christmas, 1914. Out of the violence comes a silence, then a song. A German soldier steps into No Man's Land singing "Stille Nacht." Thus begins an extraordinary night of camaraderie, music, peace. A remarkable true story, told in the words of the men who lived it.

All Is Calm relives the story of an astounding moment in history when Allied and German soldiers laid down their arms to celebrate the holiday together by trading carols, sharing food and drink, playing soccer and burying each others' dead. In some places the truce lasted only a night, in others until New Year's Day. This dramatic re-telling contains actual quotes and letters from thirty World War I figures brought to life by actors Matt ReinDavid Roberts and Alan Sorenson.

Cantus beautifully weaves a tapestry of sound, drawing from patriotic tunes, trench songs, medieVal Scottish ballads and holiday carols from England, Wales, France and Germany which take on new depths when set in the context of trench warfare. Music, an important part of life in the trenches, helped create a context that inspired the truce.

Performance Days & Times:

Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. Sunday, 1:00 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.

Post-show Discussions:

Friday, December 20, following the 7:30 p.m. performance Saturday, December 21, following the 2:00 p.m. performance

Click Here to Get Your Tickets Today.

Star Tribune Theater: "The Longest Night" and "All is Calm"

Published by Star Tribune

December 19, 2013 By Graydon Royce

It’s Dec. 20, and there are only eight hours, 46 minutes and 11 seconds of daylight today. It gets worse on Saturday, the winter solstice. We lose another 2 seconds. But hang in there, dear friends as second by second, we will climb out of the dark. (The mind-numbing cold is another story — one measured in months, not minutes and hours.) Bradley Greenwald has embraced the cold and dark with a new show that he’s performing this weekend at Open Eye Figure Theatre inMinneapolis. In “The Longest Night,” Greenwald sings songs, reads poems and generally ruminates on the ancient importance of the solstice in human history. Christmas and New Year’s were hardly the first holidays to occupy this key moment of the Earth’s cycle. The Roman Saturnalia and the Norse Yule are but two examples. “I’m hoping the show calls into focus the original question of why there are these holidays,” Greenwald said. There is not a lot of musical literature specifically aimed at the solstice — no carols, oratorios or pop standards. So Green¬wald has cobbled together selections that address the mood of the season. Purcell, Bach, Carole King, Don McLean, Schubert, Rodgers and Hart all fit into the program, which Greenwald will sing with pianist Sonja Thompson. He will intercut readings from Margaret Atwood, Joseph Campbell, Ezra Pound and Ogden Nash, among others. “I don’t mind winter,” Green¬wald said. “I fare better in the cold than I do in the heat.” I guess it takes all types. Greenwald had a standing invitation from Michael Sommers and Susan Haas at Open Eye to do a show in their quaint theater. This is the first time since 1998 that he wasn’t engaged for a show during December so he conjured up something that was “an alternative, but still embraces the holidays.” 7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sun., 4 p.m. Sat.-Sun., Open Eye, 506 E. 24th St., Mpls., $15-$20, 612-874-6338 or openeyetheatre.org

All Is Calm

If you want something on a larger scale — but still fairly intimate and contemplative — Theater Latté Da and Cantus are back again at the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis. “All Is Calm” — like “The Long¬est Night” — is a collection of song and text. It centers on the Christmas Truce of 1914, when soldiers from both sides clambered out of the trenches and celebrated Christmas Day with each other. Director Peter Rothstein launched this show in 2007 after he did extensive research in Europe and sifted through diaries and letters from soldiers and through official documents. He used excerpts to tell the story of young men eager to march off to war and then disillusioned by the muck and horror of combat. The Hennepin Theatre Trust invited Latté Da and Cantus to the Pantages, and the show has been an annual favorite since 2008. The vocalists sing 26 carols and patriotic songs while three actors recite the texts. The performance has a timeless air of mystery and wonder. The stories get inside what it was like to be a homesick young man, stuck in impossible conditions and watching as mates all around are dying. That they sought relief on Christmas is a perfect metaphor for the holiday. Perhaps most poignant and heartbreaking, the show reminds us of war’s ability to crush this lovely little moment of peace. Once the news got back to headquarters that comity was breaking out on the front lines, the generals put out the order to start shooting again. Rothstein recalled a sergeant who saw the show first in 2011 and then again recently at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Reacting to a question in the post-show discussion about the “antiwar ideology” of the show, the sergeant introduced himself to Rothstein after the show. “He said he has five generations of military in his family,” Rothstein recalled. “The answer to that question, whether it’s antiwar, is in your piece, when they sing, ‘We’re here because we’re here, because we’re here, because we’re here’ to the tune of ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ He said that was the most poignant moment for him because it reflected his experience.”

Theater Latte Da and "Our Town"

June 25, 2013.by Graydon Royce, Star Tribune.

Several people have wondered what Theater Latte Da is going to do with “Our Town” next season. First, what the company is not doing: Ned Rorem’s opera based on the Thornton Wilder classic. It will be the play, said artistic director Peter Rothstein, with all the dialogue and scenes.

Behind the show, however, will be soundscapes and interspersed throughout will be songs sung by actors who play their own instrument. Actors who can do both, of course, don’t just grow on trees. Rothstein said over coffee that he plans to use contemporary dress and a multicultural cast that reflects a current community rather than the tweedy confines of Grover’s Corner, N.H. But the script will be just as it always has been.

Latte Da did something similar to this with 2012’s “Beautiful Thing,” which featured Erin Schwab stepping in and out to perform Cass Elliott songs between scenes. Also, 2003’s “Burning Patience” was a straight play with a soundscape that gave it a cinematic feel. Rothstein noted that “Patience” used a recorded score. “Our Town” will be all live, all the time. “Our Town” will run March 12-April 6 at the Lab Theatre in Minneapolis.

Latte Da starts its season in September with a fully staged “Steerage Song,” a piece that Rothstein created with Dan Chouinard a few years ago. They did a semi-staged concert version at the Fitzgerald Theatre in 2011. The show reflected the journey of European immigrants during the great wave that occurred around 1900. The creators have continued to work on the piece since then. It runs Sept. 25-Oct. 20, also at the Lab.

At the Pantages Theatre, Latte Da will partner up with the Hennepin Theatre Trust for two shows: “All is Calm,” with Cantus, is back for the Christmas slot, Dec. 19-22. Rothstein will stage “Cabaret” Jan.15-Feb. 9. Last season, Latte Da and the Trust started a collaboration called “Broadway Re-Imagined” with distinct takes on familiar musicals.

More information on the season is at theaterlatteda.com