Guthrie Theater brings curtain down on original home
May 5, 2006
(Photo by Marty Nordstrom, courtesy of the Guthrie Theater)
"Hamlet," the first production at the Guthrie Theater, opened May 7, 1963.
Pictured are George Grizzard as Hamlet, Jessica Tandy as Gertrude and members of the company.
It was directed by Sir Tyrone Guthrie.
More than 40 years after Sir Tyrone Guthrie started his theater in the nation's heartland, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis will close with a last performance of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" on Sunday. Weeks later, the Guthrie will reopen across town in a new, $125 million three-stage complex.Minneapolis, Minn. — (AP) - When Hamlet is bid a final "good night, sweet prince" on the Guthrie Theater stage, it also will mark a farewell to a venerated auditorium that helped birth the U.S. regional theater movement.
The old Guthrie will dim its lights 43 years to the day that it opened -- also with "Hamlet" -- on May 7, 1963.
Artistic director Joe Dowling believes Guthrie, a British theatrical director who died in 1971, would have approved of the new theater, which sits on the banks of the Mississippi River in the old flour-milling district of downtown Minneapolis.
"Guthrie was an innovator. Guthrie was a man who believed in change. All his life he promoted new ideas, new thoughts," Dowling says.
He points out that Guthrie did Shakespeare in modern dress, reintroduced the thrust stage -- in which the audience surrounds the actors on three sides -- and believed that the Mississippi was a big attraction in Minneapolis.
But the theater outgrew its old digs. While the Guthrie had an open-ended lease with the adjacent Walker Art Center, the 87,000-square-foot theater -- which has about 350 people on payroll when the season is in full swing -- had no room to expand, Dowling says.
But not everyone is ready to accept the end of the old Guthrie, which probably faces the wrecking ball late this summer.
"It was essentially the first enclosed theater built for a thrust stage in North America. It clearly put Minneapolis on the cultural map," says Royce Yeater, Midwest director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Advocates for saving the Guthrie argue that it should be preserved for its cultural significance, its modernist exterior design by local architect Ralph Rapson and its acoustics.
"We are still maintaining hope that the Walker will see the light and actually try to sell the building, because we'd think it would be a wonderful investment opportunity for someone," says Paul Metsa, founder of SavetheGuthrie.org.
But the Walker conducted a reuse study five years ago and found no groups to take over the Guthrie space. The study also found that renovating and operating the theater would be too expensive.
The Walker, which reopened last year after a $73 million expansion, plans to demolish the old Guthrie to make way for an expansion of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden ...
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press