“5Q” is an online-only column featuring five questions about stage productions in the Metro Area with a special focus on the GLBTQ community’s relationship to the production. Periodically, “5Q” will take the form of an interview with actors, directors, writers, etc. to shed some light on the production process.
One hundred years ago this month, the battle trenches of the Western Front witnessed a great upwelling of common humanity. In a series of spontaneous cease-fires that became known collectively as the “Christmas truce,” Allied and German soldiers came up over the top of their trenches and marked the holiday together — sharing gifts, singing carols and even organizing an impromptu soccer match.
Those events are the basis for “All Is Calm,” which evokes the Christmas truce through words and music of the World War I era. A collaboration between two Minneapolis artistic groups—the company Theater Latté Da and the nine-member men’s chorus Cantus—All Is Calm was the brainchild of Peter Rothstein, Latté Da’s artistic director and co-founder.
5 Things You Didn’t Know About All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914
1) Rothstein, one of the Twin Cities’ premier directors, worked five years to develop All Is Calm. He recalls, “I wanted to tell the story in their words, so I created the drama primarily through letters, war documents, autobiographies, World War I poetry, grave stone inscriptions and even an old radio broadcast. For decades, the Christmas truce was considered a romantic fable. I really wanted to give voice to this remarkable moment that had somehow been denied its place in history.”
2) The Christmas Truce was an unofficial ceasefire that occurred between the Allied forces and the German front line during Christmas 1914. The opposing trenches were so close that the soldiers could hear the songs sung by the other side. On Christmas Eve, the front line soldiers began to sing Christmas carols and, much to their surprise, the song was picked up by the other side. And so began a tentative truce as both sides, homesick and yearning for a little holiday spirit, broke rank and shared an unofficial truce in honor of Christmas. Military officials didn’t want the word to get out about the truce, because it would encourage troops to not want to fight.
3) In early December 1914 Pope Benedict XV began an initiative, requesting that the nations “cease the clang of arms while Christendom celebrates the Feast of the World’s Redemption.” Germany said it would do so as long as the other nations did; they did not, and the Pope’s effort faltered. It is doubtful whether it had any meaningful impact on what eventually happened, but the truce didn’t happen in one night—it spread over the front lines and was shared among various troops.
4) Since the 2007 world premiere at Joan of Arc Catholic Church and Westminster Presbyterian Church (aired live on Classical Minnesota Public Radio), All Is Calm has enjoyed global success with broadcasts through American Public Media and the European Broadcasting Union. The program has won awards including the Gold World Medal at the 2010 New York Festivals and the 2010 Gabriel Award, which honors works of excellence in broadcasting that serve audiences through the positive, creative treatment of concerns to humankind.
5) Since the 2007 world premiere at Joan of Arc Catholic Church and Westminster Presbyterian Church (aired live on Classical Minnesota Public Radio), All Is Calm has enjoyed global success with broadcasts through American Public Media and the European Broadcasting Union. The program has won awards including the Gold World Medal at the 2010 New York Festivals and the 2010 Gabriel Award, which honors works of excellence in broadcasting that serve audiences through the positive, creative treatment of concerns to humankind. This year, there are nine productions happening around the country.
All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 will appear at the Pantages Theatre through December 21. For more information and to purchase tickets, head to www.hennepintheatretrust.org.