Tontlawald is based on an Estonian tale from The Violet Fairy Book. Director Paige Rogers heard it from her son's first-grade teacher, and it captivated her. Rogers, who co-founded the Cutting Ball Theater in 1999 with her husband, Rob Melrose, was also inspired by Poland's Teatr ZAR, which uses dance and music in its theater productions and takes its name from funeral songs performed by the Svaneti tribe in the Caucasus, in Georgia. So she asked resident playwright Eugenie Chan to work on a script, got Annie Paladino to co-direct, and Laura Arrington to choreograph.
We talked with Rogers about the difficulty of choosing between music and acting, bizarre ideas such as a snake and a piece of bread in a doll's chest cavity, and how this story is the most interesting one she's ever heard. A world premiere, Tontlawald opens tonight (Friday, Feb. 24) at Exit Theatre.