Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater must be a stage actor’s dream theater. The modern theater provides a beautiful area for actors to perform their craft. How it found its way to the Twin Cities starts in New York.
Sir Tyrone Guthrie had grown weary of New York’s Broadway scene in the late 1950s. If a show didn’t score big right out the gate – great reception and reviews – it was viewed a failure and was shut down quickly.
So, in 1959, Guthrie and a couple of colleagues sought to get away from Broadway and start their own theater where shows could be developed over time. They put in an ad in the New York Times, seeking a host city for a new theater. Minneapolis responded, eventually beating out six other cities (including San Francisco and Chicago) to land the opportunity.
Minnesotans quickly organized to start the Guthrie Theater. In 1963, the theater opened its show at its original location, near the Walker Art Center.
Actors taking the stage during the inaugural season included veterans Jessica Tandy, Hugh Cronyn and Zoe Caldwell. Young and upcoming actors that’s season included Joan Van Ark and George Grizzard.
The Guthrie Theater enjoyed several successful seasons. Guthrie served as the artistic director 1963-66. Then, he returned annually through 1969 to direct shows.
Guthrie leaders realized the theater had outgrown the original spot. So, earlier this century, they embarked on a fund raiser to build a new theater near downtown, along the Mississippi River.
The old Guthrie Theater presented its final show in May 2006. A month later, the new Guthrie opened.
The Guthrie Theater today is a magnificent facility. It’s been called “a 21st century dream factory,” by Time Magazine, according to the theater’s website.
It has two main stages and a third smaller one.
The Wuertle Thrush Stage is a versatile one, according to the guide on a tour we took of the theater. The stage can be reworked to fit any style of show. It can be a theater-in-the-round or turned into anything it needs to be. It’s been designed as a ship. It was designed as a town square when we stopped by for a production of “The Music Man.”
The McGuire Proscenium Stage is more traditional. It’s a fixed stage. Audience members basically view straight-on from their seats. It was being designed for a production of “Stage Kiss.”
The Guthrie uses professional cast members for most shows.
We were able to take a behind-the-scenes look at set building and costume design. Unfortunately, the theater doesn’t allow photographs outside of public views.
Speaking of the public views, this theater has some great ones, as well as murals.
The “Endless Bridge” takes people out to a fourth floor observation deck that allows a nice view of the Mississippi River and surrounding area. You can see the Gold Medal Flour sign above the Mill City Museum.
Or, you can take a look at the river, St. Anthony’s Falls and Stone Arch bridge that are part of the Mill Ruins Park.
Take another turn, and you can check out the goings-on at Gold Medal Park.
The theater has a unique take on murals. They have actors in character on the wall and ceilings. Rather than being true murals, they are made from wallpaper. There are 7,000 slices of onion paper in each art piece.
The Guthrie Theater is a contemporary performing arts theater that should be on everyone’s bucket list for a theater to visit. I would love to have had time to watch a show here. Maybe, next visit.
Public tours are offered throughout the week. For more information about a tour or the theater and shows, please visit www.guthrietheater.org.
Disclaimer: Thank you to meet Minneapolis and the Guthrie Theater for the complimentary tour. However, all opinions and views are ours.