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Kevin Kling’s ‘Northern Lights/Southern Cross’: global theater at the Guthrie

Sometimes you hear about a theater piece and you wonder how all the parts fit together — how the logic and logistics work. But then you see it and you realize that theater has a logic all its own and that logistics are as big as the mind can dream.

Such is the case with actor/storyteller Kevin Kling’s description of “Northern Lights/Southern Cross: Tales from the Other Side of the World,” a cosmic collaboration between artists from the United States and Australia that opens in the Guthrie Theater’s Dowling Studio this weekend.

What’s it got? First, there are theater artists from Interact Theater of Minneapolis and Tutti Ensemble of Australia, both organizations for performers with disabilities. Joining them are aboriginal artists from Australia and Native American artists from Minnesota, including didgeridoo player Jamie Goldsmith and members of Larry Yazzie’s Native Pride Dancers from St. Paul. Add to them the members of the Twin Cities Community Gospel Choir.

That’s a lot of people to cram into the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio. “In a tug of war, we’d be pretty even with the audience,” said Kling, who provides the performance with its narrative voice and a story taken from his own life.

That story radiates from Kling’s near-death motorcycle accident of some years back. In “Northern Lighs/Southern Cross,” Kling recounts how his spirit ejected from his body during the collision and wound up on the other side of the world. To comprehend what happens, it’s best to see the show.

“It’s a visceral piece on so many levels, with all the music and the dancing,” Kling said. “It does have serious elements, but for the most part it’s really a fun and interesting ride though different cultures and myths and ways of healing. It’s celebratory.”

The collaboration began more than two years ago when members of the Tutti Ensemble visited Minnesota as guests of Interact Theater. “It was in winter and we took them up north, dog-sledding and to a pow-wow,” Kling said. When Kling, Interact Artistic Director Jeanne Calvit and others visited Australia, their hosts returned the favor and took them to the Outback — where it was oppressively hot. Gottcha back, their Australian friends were saying, Kling recalled.

Out of the experiences came “Northern Lights/Southern Cross,” which received Australia’s 2007 Oscart Award for best musical. “There’s an odd kinship between Australians and Minnesotans,” Kling said. “For one thing, the jokes seem to carry in both cultures. And both of us have a love for our homes, for what we are.”

In the theater world, including the U.S. theater world, the piece also has attracted a lot of interest. “What a great move it would be to have a more global kind of theater,” Kling said. “Global in terms of cultures around the world, but also cultures that exist within your own home.”

“Northern Lights/Southern Cross: Tales from the Other Side of the World,” Guthrie Theater’s Dowling Studio. The first preview of the show is Thursday, with the official opening on Saturday. It will play through Nov. 8. For details, go here

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