Theatre Latté Da finds new space in ‘Passage of Dreams’

March 19, 2009.By Ed Huyck, MinnPost.

Theatre Latté Da is headed into a new dimension with its latest show, "Passage of Dreams," ­ right to the heights of the Southern Theater. For the trio of short musicals by Katie Baldwin Eng and Jeff Tang, the company has employed aerialist Heather Haugen to bring the show into the air.

"It's been a bit of a crash course for me in how that world works," says director and Latté Da artistic leader Peter Rothstein. "We have been rehearsing in our normal space, but also holding some of our rehearsals at a gymnastics gym. It was quite a sight having a keyboard, violin, cello and guitar and a cast of 10 singing and dancing on 2-foot-high gymnastic mats: Two worlds collide."

Theatre Latté Da’s connection to the material runs back to 2002, when the title piece was part of an anthology produced by the theater. "We fell in love with Jeff and Katie's work, so approached them about creating companion pieces for 'Passage of Dreams,' " Rothstein says.

Since then, it’s been a matter of workshops and development, including a stint in the 2007 Playlabs at the Playwrights Center and a "big workshop incorporating the aerialist and orchestrations in fall 2008," Rothstein says. "We are still making changes this week. It's an exciting and intense process." You can view a video about "Passage of Dreams" here.

Part of the evolution of the piece has to do with the aerial element. Playwright Eng has a background in the art form and wanted to include it in the show, but physics interceded. "She started with lots of aerial possibilities but quickly realized that it is impossible to sing and do aerial work at the same time -- the stomach muscles need to be doing contrary things most of the time," Rothstein says.

Instead, the aerial moments were incorporated to be "a surprise rather than the norm. In one of the pieces the aerialist represents rain. She descends from the ceiling on a piece of white silk," Rothstein says. "We have designed the scenery so everything recedes upstage except for the woman who remains standing on a high platform. On another part of her stage a trapeze artist is revealed dressed as her double. She is literally having an out-of-body experience."

And if this sounds a bit like a certain French-Canadian company -- well, it’s not intentional. "It's not attempting to be Cirque du Soleil but to incorporate aerialism as just one of the theatrical tools we employ in creating a cohesive whole," Rothstein says. "The choices were less about the wow factor and more about trying to capture the metaphor of what is happening dramatically or thematically in a provocative way."

"Passage of Dreams." March 19 through April 5 (premiering March 21). Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis. $12 to $34. For tickets, call 612-340-1725 or visit online.