Transatlantic Love Affair and the Illusion team up again for Ash Land

Part of the company of <i>Ash Land.</i>

Part of the company of Ash Land.

The innovative movement-based Transatlantic Love Affair returns for what seems to be the company's regular wintertime gig in Illusion Theater's Lights Up! Festival this weekend.

As with previous works Ballad of the Pale Fisherman and Red Resurrected, Ash Land started its life at the Minnesota Fringe Festival. The piece, a hit in 2012, arrives for Illusion audiences in an expanded form.

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"They've been really generous to allow us to have this beautiful space, and to give us the freedom and support to explore and dig into the work artistically," says director Diogo Lopes.

The play takes the framework of the Cinderella story and transposes it to the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Here, the Cinderella character's struggle becomes one to save her home. Her handsome prince becomes the son of the banker planning to foreclose on the property.

"I was pleased with it, but I felt that the piece was rushed," Lopes says. "The runtime was rushed. We had to fit everything into an hour."

Participating in Lights Up! allows the company to go back and develop the work further, using the expanded time to explore additional spaces in the material. Transatlantic Love Affair works as an ensemble, building the work under Lopes's guidance. They don't use any sets or props. Instead, the actors are employed to "build" different scenery -- a door, a field of waving wheat -- with their bodies.

"It started with the story of Cinderella. These two worlds clashing -- Cinderella from one and the Prince from another," Lopes says. "I didn't know anything about the Dust Bowl. I wanted to place the story in some kind of arid landscape. I first thought of Nevada. As I was pitching it to the ensemble, Eric Nelson said this would be awesome to do in the Dust Bowl."

The company is the same as at the Fringe show, except for the role of the Prince. The new company member, Nick Wolf, was auditioned by the entire ensemble. "We have to be careful. It can be quite delicate to bring in a new person. By the audition with the company, it was clear he was going to integrate with the company," says Isabel Nelson, one of Transatlantic's founders.

The other key element of the Fringe show returns as well: Composer and musician Harper Zwicky provides the music. Like the rest of the piece, it is a case where the music and performances have developed in tandem, Lopes says.

"The music was a real good way to inspire us for parts of the show," Lopes says.


Ash Land
Previews Thursday, opens Friday

Through February 22

Illusion Theater, 
Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, 8th Floor
528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
For tickets and more information, call 612.339.4944 or visit online.