When Michelle Hensley founded an iterant theater company in Los Angeles more than three decades ago, she named it Ten Thousand Things after the Buddhist idea of the rich diversity of life. Her company, which she moved to Minneapolis in 1993, had a mission to bring high quality theater to underserved communities in prisons, shelters and other venues.
Artistic Director Marcela Lorca took the helm of Ten Thousand Things Theater in 2018, building on that mission. And on Sept. 18, TTT will celebrate its 30 years in Minnesota with a shindig at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis. That event, filled with actors and musicians, is a capstone in its milestone season.
"Human beings naturally gravitate toward each other in search of belonging, community and understanding," said Lorca, who came to Ten Thousand Things after a long career in education and movement at the Guthrie and where she famously directed "Caroline, or Change." "Our thirst drives us to search in familiar and unfamiliar spheres for that which gives our lives purpose and well-being."
The company has announced a three-show season, two directed by Lorca and featuring the music of resident composer and music director Peter Vitale.
The 2023-24 slate launches with a revival of "Twelfth Night," Shakespeare's playful exploration of identity, love and power. TTT's previous productions of this romantic comedy have been noted for, among other things, Vitale's accompanying compositions, which have been used elsewhere, including at the California Shakespeare Theater.
Lorca's production will include, as usual, both nonpublic and public performances (Oct. 5-Nov. 19).
"The Hatmaker's Wife," Lauren Yee's magical realist work about a home with talking walls and the stories that they tell, was postponed because of the pandemic. And now the play, which premiered in New York in 2013, is getting a limited professional tour in spring 2024.
Yee had a banner year in 2019 when she won some $400,000 in prizes. Her work has been produced by numerous theaters in the Twin Cities, including the Guthrie ("The Great Leap") and the Jungle and Theater Mu, which teamed up for "Cambodian Rock Band."
Joel Sass directs a cast that includes Jim Lichtscheidl, Nathan Keepers, JuCoby Johnson and Kimberly Richardson (Feb. 8-March 17, 2024).
Lorca will stage the musical "The Spitfire Grill," based on Lee David Zlotoff's 1996 film with Ellen Burstyn and Alison Elliott. The plot centers on a woman's attempts at reinvention after being released from prison. Katherine Fried, who trained in the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA program, has been tapped to play lead. Last fall, Fried appeared in TTT's gutting production of "Iphigenia at Aulis" (April 25-June 9).
TTT also is bringing back its Ten Thousand Voices project, which was developed by Lorca and playwright Kira Obolensky for those isolated in prisons and senior homes. The works crafted in these workshops are performed by professional actors and shared via video links (Dec. 4-10).
Tickets to "Twelfth Night" go on sale in September. Flex Passes, which guarantee reserved seats, are $140 and will be available by lottery in July. Donors of $1,000 or more can get them without entering the lottery. 612-203-9502 or online.