Twin Cities-bred actor Caroline Innerbichler is ready for her final thaw.
One of the stars of the national tour of "Disney's Frozen," which kicked off just before the pandemic hit and has been in fitful cold storage since, Innerbichler is raring to play princess Anna in the town where she cut her teeth.
"Frozen" is slated to open at the Orpheum Theatre on Sept. 30.
"This feels like coming out of hibernation," Innerbichler said. "The wait has been surreal, and not just for theater actors — the world stopped."
Innerbichler added that the story of two sisters reconciling after years of separation and frost especially resonates now because her character has been isolated.
"And now she's being surrounded by people and making intimate connections again," she said. "That's what we're all looking forward to."
Twin Cities theater companies are knocking wood, hoping that their comeback seasons this fall will stick. Theater Latté Da may capture the feeling of many with its "Puttin' on the Ritz," a reopening celebration in which performers can literally kick up their heels.
"The last 18 months seem like it's been nothing other than a continual planning scenario exercise," said Guthrie Theater artistic director Joseph Haj. "I think we were all hungry for a far less uncertain fall and winter than we're moving into, but so be it."
The Guthrie kicks off its comeback season with the launch of the national tour "What the Constitution Means to Me," Heidi Schreck's Pulitzer- and Tony-nominated play.
Haj likes to say that theater is good at helping us remember or forget, depending on our needs. But the field, bound by traditions, moves with the speed of an ocean liner instead of a sloop. Amid the anxiety and uncertainty about COVID-19, Twin Cities playhouses are hoping to lure patrons back with a mix of classics and new shows. Some are pulled from postponed titles. Others respond to the unease of the zeitgeist.
"Any good art has to be in communication with the times, no matter a folk tale from another culture or an opera or Shakespeare," said Christina Baldwin, Jungle Theater's artistic director. "My thing is that I always hope that we're either making the unfamiliar familiar or finding other and opposing views within the familiar. But it has to speak to something happening now."
"Constitution" squares to the topsy-turvy political moment. Ditto with "Every Brilliant Thing," Duncan Macmillan's and Jonny Donahoe's off-Broadway solo hit that opens at the Jungle and, as Baldwin puts it, "celebrates life."
Pillsbury House Theatre is remounting "What to Send Up When It Goes Down," Aleshea Harris' theatrical healing ritual, that the company performed in its parking lot this summer, just blocks from where George Floyd was murdered.
Over at Mixed Blood Theatre, "Animate," a new play staged at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, was commissioned at the start of the pandemic and was executed with safety protocols and themes that address the health emergency coupled with other big questions as scientists try to resurrect an extinct species.
"It's a heady piece talking about a prevailing question — does the good of the many supersede the good of the individual?" said Mixed Blood founder and director Jack Reuler. "In the end, the audience has to decide by voting with QR codes."
Other works, like "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Ordway, "The Comedy of Errors" at Ten Thousand Things and "Annie" at the Children's Theatre, are familiar enough to be considered theatrical comfort food. That's especially true of "A Christmas Carol," which the Guthrie is giving a total makeover.
"Has there ever been a story that we all hold that better describes that we're not just responsible for ourselves but also our neighbor?" Haj said. "That's what that play traffics in — about who and what we're responsible for. And I think those themes every year, they're powerful, but now as much as ever, that particular story is a reminder of our better selves, that we all want to be changed and transformed."
For much-postponed "Annie," the parallels between its Depression-era milieu and today are striking, said Children's Theatre artistic director Peter Brosius.
"It takes place during one of the hardest times in history and is a portrait of hope, resilience, joy and people finding heart and generosity," Brosius said. "We know there's a lot of need for joy and hope at this time as we come back together as a community. The isolation has been real."
Sarah Bellamy, artistic director of Penumbra Theatre, which will return soon with "Black Nativity," said she has "been heartened by the camaraderie and coming together of Twin Cities theaters."
Following national and state guidelines, most Twin Cities theaters have announced safety protocols that require vaccines, negative COVID-19 tests and mask-wearing for all parties — casts, staff and audience alike, 12 years or older.
"We can't come back the same way," Reuler said. "We will see how people have changed, evolved and matured to recognize what just happened that will lead us to be different kinds of theater-makers. If we return to doing what we were doing before the pandemic, with no change or only optics changing, that will be a missed opportunity."
Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390