Theater Latté Da is creating a bunch of new works, including one based on a very old work.
Monday's announcement — which includes a take on "Show Boat," widely considered the first play to integrate music, dance and drama, as well as "Immortal Longings," the final work of the late Terrence McNally — comes in lieu of the 2020-21 season Latté Da would normally announce now.
Instead, the theater is making public the shows it is developing for the future, keeping writers, actors and other artists busy creating work even though it's not certain when it will be shared with audiences.
"The theater is where I have found meaning, support, and personal growth. Not having it at this most challenging time is brutal," wrote artistic director Peter Rothstein, adding that he's confident audiences will gather again in person, rather than virtually. "The current reality will drastically reshape our thinking, our behavior and our relationships with each other and the planet. It will also reshape the stories we tell. We need our creative voices to help navigate, articulate and find meaning inside this new world."
Dubbed "Next Up," the slate of "laboratory" works expands on Latté Da's annual Next series, which has developed 20 new shows in the last five years.
The theater's best-known world premiere is "All Is Calm," inspired by the World War I Christmas truce of 1914. When it traveled to New York in 2018, it won a Drama Desk Award. It was filmed in Minneapolis last December for future broadcast on PBS stations.
Rothstein directed the world premiere of "Immortal Longings" in Texas last year, expanding on a relationship that bloomed from McNally's admiration for Latté Da's version of his "Ragtime" (McNally died March 24 of COVID-19-related causes). "Immortal Longings," which featured Twin Cities actor Steven Epp as ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, has been spoken of as a possibility for Broadway, where most of McNally's work played, but its next phase will be at Latté Da.
Epp also will collaborate on an adaptation of the opera "Gianni Schicchi" with Bradley Greenwald. The Giacomo Puccini work is best known for the aria 'O Mio Babbino Caro."
Playwright Harrison David Rivers, whose "To Let Go and Fall" and "Five Points" had their world premieres at Latté Da, is writing a new piece inspired by real-life drama surrounding the creation of "Show Boat," as well as the Mississippi River flooding that coincided with its premiere in 1927.
Rivers also is working with Ellen Fitzhugh and Ted Shen on "Broadbend, Arkansas," a musical about an African American family's struggles during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
A pair of frequent Rothstein collaborators, actor Sally Wingert (recently seen in "A Little Night Music") and designer/director Kate Sutton-Johnson ("Six Degrees of Separation"), will develop new plays with him. Wingert's is "In Paper Boats," about the patron saint of immigrants, Frances Cabrini, who founded dozens of hospitals, schools and orphanages. Sutton-Johnson's is also biographical. Created with Mexico-based playwright Joserra Zuñigá, it will explore the life of trailblazing painter Frida Kahlo.
Rounding out the slate of shows that could appear in future seasons are the Q Brothers, with "Rome Sweet Rome," a hip-hop-inspired take on William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," and a new piece that brings together pairs of creators from two arts groups: Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses of the Bay Area band the Kilbanes, and Jessie Austrian and Noah Brody of New York's Fiasco Theater (which, like Latté Da, has produced several innovative, pared-down takes on the work of Stephen Sondheim).
Theatergoers can learn more at latteda.org, including information about an online event at 7 p.m. May 18 that will feature Rothstein elaborating on the new projects.