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Interview: Peter Rothstein and David Simpatico of TWELVE ANGRY MEN at Theater Latte Da

This production runs now through July 24th

Interview: Peter Rothstein and David Simpatico of TWELVE ANGRY MEN at Theater Latte Da

In a small New York City jury room, on "the hottest day of the year," twelve men debate the fate of a young defendant charged with murdering his father. In form, TWELVE ANGRY MEN: A NEW MUSICAL is a courtroom drama; in purpose, it's a crash course in those passages of the U.S. Constitution that promise defendants a fair trial and the presumption of innocence.

Theater Latté Da is thrilled to develop and produce the world premiere of this new American musical adapted from one of America's greatest dramas.

We chat with David Simpatico who wrote the book for this production and Peter Rothstein who is the director for this production of Twelve Angry Men: A New Musical and their upcoming project of The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing with Chicago Opera Theatre.

Peter Rothstein:

Interview: Peter Rothstein and David Simpatico of TWELVE ANGRY MEN at Theater Latte Da

How does it feel to have live audiences and performances back?

It is thrilling to have artists and audiences sharing space and time together again. In many ways it feels like a homecoming but it is a different house because it's a different world than it was three years ago, and we are building it carefully.

How does it feel to be collaborating and working with David on Twelve Angry Men?

David and Michael were in the room every moment of the workshop and rehearsal process. I think much of the production's success is because we were collectively listening, responding, rethinking and rewriting as a team.

What has been the audience response and why do you think the audience is responding that way towards this production?

Many folks enter as skeptics, unable to imagine how this particular story could sing, and every audience over the past six weeks has leapt to its feet

Tell us about your other upcoming collaboration of The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing with Chicago Opera Theatre?

I am thrilled to collaborating with David once again on a world premier -- this time on an ambitious, poetic, riveting new opera based on an important figure in not only Queer History but in World History.

What do you hope audiences take away when they see your productions?

But works explore deeply psychological characters but are about big issues, revolutionary ideas. I hope audiences are entertained, engaged and ultimately changed.

What are some of your favorite local spots?

The Ritz Theater is located in Northeast Minneapolis, which is a vibrant neighborhood filled with local breweries, independent restaurants and countless art galleries.

David Simpatico:

Interview: Peter Rothstein and David Simpatico of TWELVE ANGRY MEN at Theater Latte Da

How does it feel to have live audiences and performances back?

It feels awesome! I feel so lucky to be back in a theater, wearing a mask, surrounded by creative artists, entertaining hundreds of strangers in the dark every night. The last few years has felt like screaming into the wind, trying not to forget how actual live theater feels, physically, emotionally, the group psyche thing. Sitting at the back of the theater watching the audience watch my work, reacting to it, sharing that reaction...it's an incredible, gratifying and humbling feeling, and very much appreciated. Even in a mask.

How does it feel to be collaborating and working with Peter on Twelve Angry Men?

I love working with Peter on 12AM, he leads with such an open spirit. He inspired me to do my best work, and to listen acutely to the room. He encouraged composer/lyricist Michael Holland and I to find the best way for the score to integrate organically with the book, how each bubbles and bursts out of the other, trading energy back and forth so the sense of propulsion and music resides in both spoken and sung sections. He helped us define a musical integrity that feels very much a part of this specific script, and the specific world of the play.

What inspired you to write and create Twelve Angry Men into a musical and premier it at Theater Latte Da?

Back in 2012, Michael and I were introduced/paired-up with each other by a NYC producer, who had the rights to the original Reginald Rose play, and commissioned us to adapt it to a musical. The producer did not pursue anything beyond a first draft; for the next seven years, it was a dead project. Michael was working with Theater Latte Da and told Peter about it, who shared it with Elissa, who immediately jumped on it; within a week, the Rose estate had granted the theater the rights, and we came out to bust open our work for two weeks at the Next Festival. We had several more workshops at the theater. Our world premiere was postponed due to Covid, but we finally opened this July to across-the-board rave reviews. Definitely worth the wait!

What has been the audience response and why do you think the audience is responding that way towards this production?

Peter had the idea to do away with applause after songs, to help integrate the music and book, a seamless hybrid that keeps the audience in the room with the twelve men, moving the story forward every moment. The moments of laughter in the script (I told the cast I considered this play a comedy) allow the audience to vocally respond as a group while keeping engaged with the action, rather than stopping the story to applaud it. So, at the end of the show, the audience leaps to its feet. Every night, the audience erupts. Because they get what we are trying to do: we keep the context in the late fifties, integrating the cast with non-white characters that help connect to our current world, to lay in nuances that help filter our age through the story, and the story through our age. We deal with toxic masculinity, rage, father/son issues, ageism, racism and the American judicial system; by keeping the setting in the recent past, it gives the audience a little breathing space to deal with the issues of our day as reflected in this musical.

Tell us about your other upcoming collaboration of The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing with Chicago Opera Theatre?

Peter has an inherently theatrical vision that focuses on the essential heart of the characters and their needs and desires. He encourages actors to go deeper, not bigger, and the results take root right in front of you. I'm excited to explore Turing with him because the world of the score by Justine F. Chen is huge, with world events moving the story forward, with sexual identity intertwining around advanced mathematical theory and global politics. Justine and I need to spotlight the flawed humanity at the center of it all, and I know Peter will do so, brilliantly.

What inspired this opera?

Lawrence Edelson, at American Lyric Theater, approached me with a potential commission: Did I have any ideas for a new opera? I gave him eight, one of which was a piece called The Apple, about the life and death of little known computer pioneer, Alan Turing. He picked The Apple. Luckily, he paired me with Justine F. Chen, and she loved the idea, too. I had been thinking of doing Turing's story as a one-man show, but when Larry offered a commission, I jumped at the chance to explore it with Justine.

What do you hope audiences take away when they see your productions?

I want them to take away a conversation about what they just saw and heard and how it made them feel; I want them to connect the story to other stories, to the news, to the world. I want them to carry the play inside them, at least for a day.

What are some of your favorite local spots?

Hai Ha Minneapolis, some of the best Southeast Asian street food I've had in a long time.

Thank you David and Peter for your time.

For more ticket and show information, please click on the link below.

Photos courtesy of Theater Latte Da, David, and Peter




From This Author - Jared Fessler

Jared [He/Him] is originally from Iowa and resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up doing theatre and studied music, dance, and theatre with additional training in BFA musical theatre.

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