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New Wine's team approach perfect for 'Rhythm and Word'

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

The New Wine drama troupe has taken the team approach quite literally for its latest production, "Rhythm and Word."

The local high school-aged troupe, based at First Lutheran Church, is in its eighth season. It will perform "Rhythm and Word" on May 11, 14, 17-18 at 7 p.m. in a dessert-theatre format.

Tickets are on sale now and must be purchased in advance -- there will be no tickets sold at the door on the days of the performances. Contact First Lutheran at (320) 589-3242 for tickets.

"Rhythm and Word" is advertised as "Ancient script. Relevant message," and director Todd Mattson drew on two theatrical genres as the basis for the "Rhythm and Word."

Mattson was inspired by a performance of "Splinter" while attending a music and drama conference a couple of years ago.

In "Splinter," excerpts from the four gospels are woven together with 15 other books of the Bible to look at scripture through theatrical and musical traditions and techniques. "Splinter" is the creation of Cathy Alberti-Gonzalez and her son, Christian Gonzalez.

"We're not doing exactly what they did," Mattson said, "but it planted an idea in what we're doing this year."

"Rhythm and Word" also incorporates ideas from "STOMP," a show that is a combination of percussion, movement and visual comedy that is the creation of Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas.

"Many churches are putting together "STOMP" groups, and I thought that would be a fun way to try make a more engaging event, making multi-media and drama come together," Mattson said.

New Wine is divided into three teams: The Drama Team will bring visual life to ancient scripture from both Old and New Testament; the Rhythm Team, drawing from "STOMP," will perform several pieces it has composed; and the Technical Team will use lighting effects and projected images to "align contemporary pictures to scriptural themes," Mattson stated.

The performances will open in the New Wine Coffee House in First Lutheran's Fellowship Hall. While audience members enjoy four desserts, coffee and sodas, New Wine performers will entertain with song and instrumental selections. The show then moves to the church sanctuary for the main performance.

Proceeds from the Dessert-Theatre performances will help fund New Wine's early June tour of "Rhythm and Word" in the Twin Cities, Chicago and other locations in between.

In addition to performing "Rhythm and Word," sightseeing and taking in a show, New Wine will again incorporate a work day into their tour schedule. Mattson is working with Habitat for Humanity to try arrange work for the troupe at some point in the tour.

"Ever since our work with Katrina relief in the New Orleans area, we have tried to be intentional about including some sort of service component to our production tours," Mattson stated. "These tours can be life-changing!"