Bach to the future

An aging composer reflects on his life in a new musical by 7th House Theater.

by Danylo Loutchko

Which would you choose: love or success?
The 7th House Theater’s new musical, “The Great Work,” explores this question through the story of a famous composer at the end of his life. The character reflects back on his youth in Vienna, Austria, where he chose musical fame over love. The show opens in the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio on Dec. 20 and runs until Jan. 2.
“[The old composer] is looking back and trying to figure out if [fame] was the right choice, and how making that one little choice changed the entire course of his life,” said
University of Minnesota alum Grant Sorenson, the writer and co-director of “The Great Work” and co-founder of 7th House Theater. “Over the course of the show, [he] tells us his story. And he tells it to his daughter with whom he has a very strained relationship. … It’s about the two of them reconciling their relationship and seeing each other in a new light.”
For the completely original production, three of the five members of 7th House Theater created everything from scratch. Sorenson wrote the script, David Darrow created music and lyrics, and Cat Brindisi choreographed the piece. All three co-directed the show.
“We started with the idea of doing a show based on the life of Franz Liszt, one of the romantic era composers, who was considered to be the first rock star of the music world,” Sorenson said.
The company found it difficult to create a coherent, theatrical story with Liszt’s life, so they worked with the parts that spoke to them and created a show from the ground up, which was a four-month collaborative process.
“The show has really gone through a huge transformation from the original idea to the final product,” Sorenson said. “That’s sort of the nature of the beast when you’re writing something new.”
As a young theater company, 7th House is discovering that they work best through collaboration.
“We’re a company of actors. We don’t have an artistic director or anything like that,” Brindisi said. “We don’t know how to direct, so we needed to learn really quickly, and we’ve found the best way to do that was by having five heads rather than one.”
“The Great Work” is 7th House Theater’s second show at the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio, the first being another musical, “Jonah and the Whale,” which ran last year.
The Dowling Studio’s small size and atmosphere make it an unorthodox venue for musical productions, but it’s perfect for 7th House’s artistic goals.
“[In] all of the shows that 7th House has done, we really want to focus on the relationship between the actors and the audience,” Sorenson said. “All of our shows so far have been done in pretty intimate spaces, and we feel that it really helps us focus on the storytelling, the acting and the intricacies of the piece.”