“All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914” will play to a new audience this year – in New York City. Theater Latté Da announced the off-Broadway debut of its original production March 12. Playwright and artistic director Peter Rothstein is pumped. “In the past ten years, we’ve taken this production to 50 cities around the U.S. and Canada. Although we have begun to license the production to other theater groups, this is the first time it’s been picked up by a commercial producer.”
“All is Calm” is based on a true story of soldiers along the Western Front in Belgium during World War I. A German soldier steps into “No Man’s Land” between the opposing armies, sings “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night) and begins a truce that in some places lasted until New Year’s Day. “They think at least 100,000 men took part in it,” said Rothstein, who spent two years researching the incident. “The men wanted to keep it going. They didn’t want to fight with the men they had fraternized with. There were seven or eight truces that took place along the front. It took a major effort of the war’s propaganda machines to keep another one from occurring.”
To create the play, Rothstein blended iconic WWI patriotic tunes, trench songs, medieval ballads and Christmas carols from England, Wales, France, Belgium and Germany with texts written by more than 30 World War I participants.
“All is Calm” premiered in 2007 in three Twin Cities churches. It was broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio. Erick Lichte and Timothy Takach, members of the vocal group Cantus, arranged the a capella music and Cantus did much of the singing on that production. The play has since expanded to a troupe of musical actors, but the story remains the same.
Ten actors will go to New York; Rothstein said the theater is in the process of figuring out how to get costumes and the minimal set to the Big Apple. Lichte, who used to live in Minneapolis, will be the music director.
Laura Little Theatrical Productions, the commercial producer, will pick up the expenses of moving the company to New York and handle the promotion.
It’s a real coup for 20-year-old Latté Da to take the show to New York, said Rothstein. “I have been working in Minneapolis for 25 years,” he said. “I can name only a handful of theater companies that have gone from here to off-Broadway, including the Guthrie, Theatre de la Jeune Lune and, of course, the Children’s Theater Company with ‘The Year of Frog and Toad’.”
The Theater Latte Da troupe will begin rehearsals in Minneapolis in October and will rehearse in New York later in the month. The play will debut Nov. 9 at the recently renovated Sheen Center for Thought and Culture on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. “It’s an intimate theater with 300 seats,” said Rothstein. The Center also includes a smaller 90-seat theater, rehearsal spaces and an art gallery. It’s named after Catholic Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.
Rothstein said “All is Calm” has had a great reception in all its runs across the country, but “it’s hard to predict” how the play will be received in New York. “It’s all a capella singing, which is unusual for a musical,” he said. “It’s a very simple and direct play.”
Rothstein pointed out that the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I will occur Nov. 11, making “All is Calm” even more relevant. The play will run Nov. 9-Dec. 30.
Theater Latté Da is housed at the Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave NE, and recently completed the run of “Assassins.”
They will debut “Five Points” on April 4. Set amidst the tumult of the Civil War, Five Points chronicles the journeys of two men, Willie Lane, a young black performer at the famed Almack’s Dance Hall, and John Diamond, an Irish immigrant and former jig champion, as they risk everything in pursuit of the American Dream. That show runs through May 6.
Below: Scene from “All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.” (Photo courtesy of Theater Latté Da)