‘Three Other Sisters’ combines music and legend with big ideas

Harry Cherkinian, Contributing writer

What’s in a name? Well, apparently quite a bit, literally and figuratively, especially a name that translates to mean “the theater of big ideas.”

Theatre Gigante started out as a joke, according to founder and artistic director Isabelle Kralj. “We were sitting with some friends and one jokingly said, ‘You should have the biggest theatre company.’”

Kralj’s associate director and husband, Mark Anderson, immediately thought of the Grotta Gigante, the world’s largest tourist cavern in Trieste, Italy, where Kralj’s parents live.

“Mark said, ‘That’s it. Theatre Gigante’ and the morning after, it still sounded good.”

Kralj and Anderson are sitting in a coffeehouse on Milwaukee’s East side, looking very relaxed considering they just finished a rehearsal for their newest show “Three Other Sisters,” which runs March 11-13.

While the name Theatre Gigante is two years old, the company has been around much longer than that under its former name – Milwaukee Dance Theatre. Kralj has focused on dance since she first founded MDT in 1987, with Anderson joining officially in 1999, two years into their marriage. Both husband and wife are veteran performers in Milwaukee, with Anderson best known for his work as a writer and performance artist.

With “Three Other Sisters,” the duo have once again taken a story and created their own version, incorporating dance movement, theater and music. “We’re taking a story with no action and doing it where one scene might be stylized and the next scene is naturalistic,” Anderson says.

“Three Other Sisters” is based on a centuries-old legend from Montenegro near the Adriatic Sea. Three sisters all fall in love with the same man, a sailor who promises to return to each of them. As each sister dies, the remaining ones brick in her window in the house they share. Even after the third sister has died, the sailor never returned, according to legend.

As with such previous productions as “Antigone” and “The Beggar’s Opera,” TOS has an “organic evolution” in its creation, Anderson says.

“Part of the collaboration is to try and focus on exploration.” In this case, the collaboration involves Slovenian singer-songwriter Vlado Kreslin, who is travelling from his native country to appear in the show while touring the United States.

In addition to Kreslin’s live accompaniment, TG also secured permission to use Bob Dylan’s “Boots of Spanish Leather” as well as The Pogues’ “Lorelei.”

But TG is all about creating ideas for the audience to explore along with the performers.

“In most of our work, we like to put the skeletal structure out there and let the audience paint in the rest,” says Kralj.

“This is the kind of work we really love doing,” Anderson says.

“Three Other Sisters” performs March 11-13 at the Off-Broadway Theatre, 342 N. Water St., 2nd Floor. For more information, call 414-278-0765 or visit www.theatregigante.org