Bruce A. Young and H. Adam Harris.
Photo by Paula Keller
Sarah Rasmussen may be in her first go-around as director with Ten Thousand Things, but she has long loved the company's signature plays, and has worked as a puppeteer, an assistant director, and even "drove a large, white-panel van."
"I just thought what Michelle [Hensley] was doing, with so much integrity and so much power, was incredible. She gets such talented actors. It is all about the interaction between actor and audience," she says.
Her first effort for Ten Thousand Things is Will Power's The Seven, a hip-hop version of Aeschylus' The Seven Against Thebes.
"We had been talking about me directing a show. This is a show that I brought to Michelle, and that she was also familiar with. I was really excited to do a musical. I love the way that Ten Thousand Things works with music," Rasmussen says.
The cast features Katie Bradley, Aimee K. Bryant, H. Adam Harris, Kinaundrae Lee, Brian Sostek, Ricardo Vazquez, Joetta Wright, and Bruce Young.
Power, whose other work includes Five Fingers of Funk at the Children's Theatre Company, takes the original play -- about the sons of Oedipus and the battle for power of Thebes -- and literally remixes it for a new age, using hip-hop and rap music as the foundation of the piece. "Oedipus was cursed. The idea of the show is how does a neighborhood shake off a curse?" Rasmussen says.
"I like musicality and poetry. I like staging poetry. I find Will's work utterly irresistible in the playfulness of it, the power of it, and the vulnerability of it. He writes with a really specific style. He is a very generous writer and person, and you don't have to know everything about rap and hip hop to know what is going on," Rasmussen says.
The musical tracks are interpreted via music director Peter Vitale. The music is "all Peter. It's not hip hop without the tracks. They are done by a guy named Justin Ellington. We needed to figure out how to use that and still pare it down. We wanted to keep it low-fi," Rasmussen says.
Ten Thousand Things performs for audiences at prisons, homeless shelters, and in community centers. These crowds bring a completely different atmosphere to the theater. "There is no pretense to those audiences. They'll respond and they'll talk back."
The prison audiences "are so hungry for story. They get these epic stories, and they have lived these epic lives with really hard decisions," Rasmussen says. "It's also really cool to see people grooving to the music. Theater is supposed to feel immediate. You don't have to think about it before you get it, laugh, or groove to it."
For every audience, the show "is such a ride through music and big ideas. It's a ride through an encounter with the Greeks mashed up with contemporary culture. Music is true to the roots of Greek theater. I love the idea of busting up any preconceptions of what a play is and how a story can be told," Rasmussen says.
1011 Washington Ave., Minneapolis
Friday through March 10
For tickets and information, call 800.838.3006 or visit online