Cultural landmark or disaster waiting to happen?
That's the decision facing Minneapolis' famed Guthrie Theatre, which hopes to leave its current home for a larger space in 2005. The plan just got easier since a City Council committee voted, Oct. 30, in favor of a permit to tear down the current building and let the Guthrie move into an expanded Walker Art Center next door
The $90 million expansion, according to the Star Tribune, is favored by the Guthrie staff and the Walker Center, which owns the Guthrie's current building. Historic preservationist and the latter building's architect argued against tearing the old theatre down, and the vote was not unanimous (4-2).
Guthrie artistic director Joe Dowling argued that "it's very clear the Guthrie has outgrown the building" and that the company's spirit would be maintained in a new space." On Nov. 9, the full City Council will vote and is expected to approve the demolition (though in two years, the next council could just as easily reverse the decision, according to the Star Tribune).
The Guthrie company's plans aside, the theatre building is also being studied by the State Historic Preservation Office to see if the 38-year old edifice is worthy of national landmark status. *
The Guthrie Theatre company, embarking on what it calls a "season of firsts," opened its 2001-02 roster July 27 with Amadeus. Directed by Dowling, Peter Shaffer's fanciful look at the emotional downfall of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart began previews July 21 and ended its run Aug. 26. That show was followed by Doug Hughes' staging of Da.
As for the rest of the Guthrie season, eight contemporary plays and a holiday classic comprise the roster. In a prepared statement artistic director Dowling said, "The mainstage season will bring together the works of contemporary dramatists from England and Ireland together with classics from Shakespeare and Molière, as well as a masterpiece from one of America's greatest playwrights."
The Guthrie will stage William Shakespeare's tragedy Antony and Cleopatra for this first time, Jan. 19-Feb. 24, 2002. Mark Lamos directs Laila Robins (Guthrie?s Hedda Gabler and Summer and Smoke) as Cleopatra.
Michael Bogdanov and Jeffrey Hatcher's new play with music, Speak Easy, or The Bootleg Gentleman runs March 30-April 28, 2002. Based on Molière's comedy, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, the adaptation deals with "a businessman determined to buy his way into the privileges of high society in 1930's gangland Chicago." Bogdanov directs.
Tennessee Williams' Camino Real gets its first Guthrie staging, May 11-June 9, 2002. Rarely produced, Camino Real will be directed by Michael Kahn, the artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C. According to production notes "the real and the imaginary converge and freely play off each other, as a down-on-his-luck boxer meets a group of larger-than-life characters, including Lord Byron, Casanova and Don Quixote."
Horton Foote's New York-bound The Carpetbagger's Children kicked off the season at the Guthrie Lab, Aug. 3-Sept. 2. Guthrie associate artistic director John Miller-Stephany (Guthrie?s Sweeney Todd) is currently helming Merrily We Roll Along which runs (Oct. 11-Nov. 18. First staged on Broadway in 1981, the Stephen Sondheim and George Furth musical "chronicles the ups and downs of an artistic friendship facing the temptations and perils of success."
The Guthrie Lab season wraps up with Lee Blessing's Thief River (Feb. 15-March 10, 2002). Ethan McSweeny directs the story of "two Midwestern young men from 1950 through 2005 as they try to learn who they really are." McSweeny directed Guthrie Lab's 2000 production of Side Man.
Guthrie on Tour will also present Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! in various cities and towns "across the upper Midwest" from February to May 2002. Douglas C. Wager directs the story of delicate family relations; the set design is by Ming Cho Lee.
Season subscriptions to the Guthrie Theater range from $70-$195 (mainstage) and $53-$83 for the Guthrie Lab. Single tickets are $16-$44 (mainstage) and $18-$35 for (Guthrie Lab). The Guthrie Theater box office is located at 725 Vineland Place, Minneapolis. For information call (612) 377-2224 or toll-free (877) 44 STAGE. Single tickets can also be purchased online at www.guthrietheater.org.