For Immediate Release                                                                                                                                           
Stephanie Weiss,  Augsburg College director of news and media services
April 1, 2014                                                                                                                                                            

Barb DeGroot: Arboretum PR, 952-443-1459

Site-Specific Staging of 'Peer Gynt' Breaks Rules, Boundaries

Production is first-ever collaboration between Augsburg, University of Minnesota

(MINNEAPOLIS) - A ground-breaking production of Henrik Ibsen's "Peer Gynt" will take theater-goers on a fantastic voyage that includes oversized birds and trolls, original music and simultaneous scenes, all while attendees and performers travel a quarter-mile portion of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

A first-time collaboration between Augsburg College and University of Minnesota theater departments, "Peer Gynt" will be performed April 10-13 on the Arboretum grounds in Chanhassen. Specific times are 6 p.m. April 10 & 11; noon, 3 & 6 p.m. April 12 and noon & 3 p.m.  April 13.

The play, a 1.5-hour production, was condensed from a lengthier Robert Bly script. "We created an accessible, site-specific production that is rich for the actors and the audience," said Darcey Engen, associate professor and chair of Augsburg's Theater Arts. "This adaptation demanded new partnerships between schools and with many theater artists - puppeteers, movement specialists, musicians, fight choreographers.  It means audience members will be pummeled with sensory stimuli."

The student cast comprises nearly 40 people from two institutions. Original music was developed. Set pieces were built with consideration of the changes that occur throughout the arboretum. Then there's the weather.

"It might be sunny or raining or breezy," Engen said. "But as performers, that's part of the challenge of site-specific theater. For attendees, it's the chance to see what is - because of the variables - a once-in-a-lifetime performance and to leave having been an active traveler with the actors in the play."

But all this makes a production such as this particularly rewarding for students.

"Students at Augsburg and the University of Minnesota are hip-deep in creating this play. They are building hands-on experience in creative problem-solving with some of the Twin Cities' finest in theater and are gaining exposure to our master puppeteers, musicians, movement professionals," Engen said. "It's a chance for students to explore the many ways to work in theater and to challenge them to meld these disciplines into a story that will rivet the audience."

Engen is co-directing the play with Luverne Seifert, head of the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance. Engen and Seifert three years ago established Sod House Theater, which specializes in site-specific productions in rural communities and that partner with local theaters and actors.

More information is on the Augsburg College website at  Performances are free for Augsburg and U of M students and free for Arboretum members.  It is free with gate admission for other visitors ($12 for ages 13 & older;  12 & under).

Augsburg College is set in a vibrant neighborhood at the heart of the Twin Cities, and offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and nine graduate degrees to nearly 4,000 students of diverse backgrounds.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the largest public garden in the Upper Midwest, is a community and national resource for horticultural and environmental information, research and public education. It is part of the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences & is located 9 miles west of I-494 on Highway 5 in Chanhassen.