Theater visionary Peter Rothstein, who co-founded Theater Latté Da, is leaving Minnesota for Florida this summer.
The artistic director's last show for the Minneapolis company that's dedicated to musicals and plays with music will be "Next to Normal," which opens in June at the Ritz Theater. Rothstein leaves at the end of that month and begins his new job July 1 as producing artistic director of Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota.
"I will be forever grateful to the artists, audiences and generous donors who have made Theater Latté Da a reality. You have made me a better artist and a better human being," said the Grand Rapids, Minn., native, who has made the theater his artistic home since its 1998 inception with co-founder and resident music director Denise Prosek.
"Peter has always been willing to take leaps to move the theater forward and to give a platform to stories that haven't had them," said Prosek. "This puts him more on the national stage. As he rises, so do we."
Latté Da has a $4 million budget. Asolo Rep's is three times that with two stages — a 535-seat mainstage and a smaller stage half that size.
"As a curator, I'm excited to open the scope of programming to include the full range of work, not just musical theater but plays," said the 56-year-old Rothstein. "They've built an amazing campus with amazing scene shops and the nicest rehearsal hall I've ever seen."
In the past five years, Asolo Rep programmed Rothstein's productions of "Sweeney Todd" and "Ragtime," both of which originated at Latté Da. The Florida theater also has emotional significance for Rothstein because it was while working there on "Ragtime" that he became close to theater legends Terrence McNally, the show's book writer, and Stephen Flaherty, its composer. Rothstein then directed the world premiere of McNally's final play, "Immortal Longings," in Texas.
"Those moments had a profound impact on me," Rothstein said.
In the 28 years that he has directed shows in the Twin Cities, Rothstein has staged an astonishing 180 productions, including 150 for Latté Da. That exceeds the numbers for theater major domos such as Penumbra's Lou Bellamy and the Jungle's Bain Boehlke.
"Sweeney Todd" and "Ragtime" are among the highlights of Rothstein's tenure as artistic director at Latté Da. Others include last summer's world premiere of "Twelve Angry Men" as well as holiday favorite "All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914," which was filmed for PBS, in addition to a national tour and a run Off-Broadway.
While at Latté Da, he helmed productions at the Guthrie Theater ("Other Desert Cities"), Children's Theatre Company ("Annie"), Ten Thousand Things ("Doubt') and Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre ("Guys and Dolls"). His Twin Cities credits also include acting in "Love! Valour! Compassion!" at Park Square Theatre.
"All Is Calm" earned a Drama Desk Award for "unique theatrical experience" in 2019. Rothstein's other honors include multiple Ivey Awards as well as the Star Tribune's Artist of the year in 2015. After earning a master of fine arts in directing at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Rothstein began his Twin Cities career as an intern under Guthrie artistic director Garland Wright.
In decamping for Florida, Rothstein is changing places with Joseph Haj, the Guthrie artistic director, who grew up in Miami. Asolo Rep was where he had his regional auditions as an actor trying out for graduate school.
"I've loved watching the work that Latté Da has made and although I wish I could go more frequently, I never left without having a rich experience," said Haj. "I think Peter's absence will leave a big gap in this community."
And this is true especially of fellow theater artists.
"Peter's been running 100 miles an hour for a decade or more and I feel like he's handed me my career in the last 10 years," said Sally Wingert, who was directed by Rothstein in "Cabaret," "A Little Night Music" and "Sweeney Todd."
Children's Theatre managing director Kimberly Motes, who has known Rothstein since both were undergraduates, has served two stints on the Latté Da board and one as managing director.
"While it is incredibly sad to lose such an exceptional artist who has built this amazing 25-year-old company, I couldn't be more thrilled for him," Motes said. "Peter knows how to get to the heart of a story and uses music to grab you emotionally and pull you through, and it will be exciting to see him bring his incredible artistry and vision to a premier regional theater."
Wingert said that Rothstein's artistry matches his warm humanity.
"Peter takes to heart the whole Benedictine notion of welcoming the stranger with hospitality in its purest form, and that's how he leads in the world," said Wingert. "Sarasota just became that much richer."