×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Theatre de la Jeune Lune, c’est magnifique!

Loons land Tony nod

MINNEAPOLIS — Franco-American relations may be at a historical low, but for Minneapolis’ Theatre de la Jeune Lune, this year’s Tony Award winner for best regional theater, the creative collision of French and American styles has proved to be le beau marriage.

Fittingly, Jeune Lune began with a bona fide cross-cultural romance. In the 1970s, Minneapolis-born actor Barbra Berlovitz and Parisian actor Dominique Serrand toured France and the U.S. in a two-person show staged by Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater. A relationship between the two fizzled, but an enduring artistic partnership was born. Along with Robert Rosen, a childhood friend of Berlovitz, and Vincent Gracieux, Serrand’s fellow Parisian, they studied at Jacques Lecoq, the Paris school of mime.

Founding their own company with a 1978 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the ambitious foursome spent seven years peregrinating between France and the Midwest before settling into their current home, a 500-seat converted warehouse space in Minneapolis’ riverfront district. A fifth member, Steven Epp, joined the group in 1983.

While the Loons (as they’re affectionately known locally) have steadily become a Minneapolis institution, they’ve retained some of the peripatetic tendencies from their days of doing street performances in France.

Touring and collaborating with artists from outside the company remain important aspects of the company’s programming. In fact, Jeune Lune made its first visit to Off Broadway two years ago with a spare, stylized production of “Hamlet.”

Given the company’s relatively modest $1.7 million annual budget, the rate at which the Loons churn out fresh work for the road seems all the more impressive.

Despite an unusual collective creative process — officially, Jeune Lune has five artistic directors — the company has maintained a remarkably cohesive artistic vision.

Lecoq’s physical, highly visual style of theater is a constant point of reference in Jeune Lune’s re-imaginings of canonical classics from Moliere, Shakespeare and D’Artagnan. The trademark Jeune Lune style features sumptuous and inventive mise en scene, along with comic acting that references everything from Charlie Chaplin to Marcel Marceau to commedia dell’arte.

Witty clowning may be Jeune Lune’s stock in trade, but befitting a company named after a Brecht quote, the Loons have a contrarian streak as well, often surprising audiences with lavish, large-scale historical epics, fast and loose opera adaptations and dramatic chamber pieces.

One particularly memorable recent example of the latter is “The Golem,” a somber meditation on exile first produced in 1999 and revived to acclaim last season. Among Jeune Lune’s most ambitious company-created works was 1997’s “Pursuit of Happiness,” a massive two-part exploration of the American soul that was four years in gestation.

Such fearless and restless ambition can only have a salutary effect on other Twin Cities companies, according to Peter Brosius, artistic director of the Children’s Theater Company, which won the regional Tony in 2003.

“It’s inspiring to watch how they work as a collective, how that model of an ensemble functions to generate new work,” Brosius says. “Obviously, it was the unique energy of CTC that brought me here (to the Twin Cities), but to have critical thinkers and artists like the Loons working here, that’s a huge thing.”

That local theater companies have won two Tonys in three years suggests just how vibrant a theater scene Jeune Lune has helped create.

“One more and we have Chicago beat,” Brosius notes. “Not that I’m competitive or anything.”

More Legit

  • Bryan Cranston First Time in Variety

    Bryan Cranston on His Early Roles, Dealing With Rejection and His 'Erasable Mind'

    Following his 2014 Tony Award for best actor as President Lyndon B. Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s play “All the Way,” Bryan Cranston is looking to add to his trophy collection this year with his performance as Howard Beale in “Network.” The deranged anchorman — who’s famously “mad as hell and not going to take this [...]

  • Ink Play West End London

    Wary Theater Rivalry Between London and New York Gives Way to a Boom in Crossovers

    Give or take a little tectonic shift, the distance between London and New York still stands at 3,465 miles. Arguably, though, the two theater capitals have never been closer. It’s not just the nine productions playing in duplicate in both locations — believed to be the most ever — with three more expected in the [...]

  • Alex Brightman Beetlejuice Broadway

    How Alex Brightman Brought a Pansexual Beetlejuice to Life on Broadway

    Alex Brightman gives the deadliest performance on Broadway — in a good way — in “Beetlejuice.” The big-budget musical adaptation of the 1988 film directed by Tim Burton has scored eight Tony nominations, including best actor. To play the frisky role, Brightman (“School of Rock”) dons Beetlejuice’s striped suit and an assortment of colorful wigs [...]

  • Santino Fontana Tootsie Broadway Illustration

    'Tootsie' Star Santino Fontana on the Challenges of His Tony-Nominated Dual Role

    Santino Fontana is doing double duty on Broadway this year. The “Tootsie” star scored his second Tony Award nomination this month for his hilarious portrayal of struggling actor Michael Dorsey and Dorothy Michaels, the female persona that Dorsey assumes to win a role in a play. The musical, based on the 1982 comedy starring Dustin [...]

  • Dear Evan Hansen

    Broadway Cast Albums Find Fresh Footing With Hip New Sounds, Viral Outreach

    Mixtapes. YouTube videos. Dedicated playlists. Ancillary products. Viral marketing. Epic chart stays. These are things you expect to hear from a record label discussing Cardi B or Beyoncé. Instead, this is the new world of a very old staple, the Broadway original cast recording. Robust stats tell the tale: Atlantic’s “Hamilton” album beat the record [...]

  • Ali Stroker Oklahoma

    Ali Stroker on 'Oklahoma!': 'This Show Doesn’t Follow the Rules and That Is So Who I Am'

    Ali Stroker is no stranger to rewriting history. With her 2015 Broadway debut in “Spring Awakening,” she became the first actor in a wheelchair to perform on the Great White Way. Three years later, she’s back onstage in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” as Ado Annie, the flirtatious local who splits her affections between a resident [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content