Peter Hansen Discusses Clifford Odets and What’s Ahead for Gremlin Theater

Peter Christian Hansen and Jane Froiland in "Rocket to the Moon" Photo by Aaron Fenster

Peter Christian Hansen and Jane Froiland in “Rocket to the Moon”
Photo by Aaron Fenster

Peter Hansen turned Gremlin Theatre on University Avenue the region’s best producer of American classic plays. Though that is not the type of play the group produces, they have staged several and they’re on a par with the Big Boys like the Guthrie and the Jungle. However, they no longer use the University Avenue space and have reached outward. Their first partnership work with the Hennepin Theatre Trust at the New Century Theatre in Minneapolis has been nothing short of a triumph. The play is Rocket to the Moon by Clifford Odets.

I asked Hansen shortly before the play opened about the play and its space. He observed “one of the things that really has struck me about Odets and this play is how much he loves people – he loves humanity and that really pours out of his writing. I also think that specifically he sort of fell in love with these characters as he was writing them. The script is just packed full of all sorts of little nuggets about each of them that flesh out who these people are without necessarily being crucial to the story. Harold Clurman wrote of Odets that he was a romantic and I fully agree.”

“We also have been seeing this play as a study of men at different ages and at different places in their lives.  You have a younger, single man; a married man struggling with his life; a widower crushed by life; and an older, rich man who is alone in life. They are all grappling with their place in the world and looking for renewal.”

When asked about life after University Avenue, Hansen shares “for Gremlin, since we no longer have a permanent home, it has been exciting undertaking this play with the aim of producing it in a totally different kind of theatre in downtown Minneapolis. We are really curious to see how we can bring our aesthetic to a new location. Being without a home also means we can try ideas out and see what we might like in a next space as well.  We will be reconfiguring the New Century Theatre into an intimate full-out thrust and only seat a little over 100. I’m also glad to be working with Ellen Fenster who is one of my all-time favorite directors as well as assembling a design team of familiar faces while getting a chance to work with many new cast-mates for the first time.”

Rocket to the Moon
Through June 1
New Century Theatre, 615 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.

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