THE WHITE SNAKE, MR. BURNS, THE CRUCIBLE & More Set for Guthrie Theater's 2014-15 Season
Guthrie Director Joe Dowling today announced ten mainstage productions in his final season at the helm of the world renowned theater, culminating 20 years of remarkable leadership. The 2014-2015 lineup includes first-time Guthrie productions of plays by A.R. Gurney, Anne Washburn and Sarah Ruhl, three productions directed by Dowling, including a beloved Shakespeare comedy and iconic masterpieces by Arthur Miller and Sean O'Casey, the Guthrie debut of visionary writer and director Mary Zimmerman, as well as an all-American musical slated for summer.
"I am tremendously proud of the lineup this season, as it brings together artists whose work I've long admired with tremendous plays that I know will resonate with our audience." Dowling said. "And the opportunity to revisit three of my absolute favorite plays as a director is, indeed, a thrill."
Since he became the Guthrie's artistic director in 1995, Joe Dowling has directed more than 45 productions and has cultivated relationships with an extensive roster of esteemed artists including Angela Bassett, David Esbjornson, John Guare, T.R. Knight, Ethan McSweeney, Arthur Miller, Marsha Norman, Lisa Peterson, Mark Rylance and Courtney Vance, among others. As a result of his extraordinary vision and fortitude, the Guthrie built its three-theater complex on the banks of the Mississippi River, a facility which has allowed the Guthrie to broaden its repertoire and provide audiences with a range of productions year-round, serving approximately 400,000 patrons each year. One of Dowling's objectives for the new Guthrie was realized with two theaterwide playwright celebrations - Tony Kushner in 2009 and Christopher Hampton in 2012 - for which all three stages and public spaces were devoted to the works of the playwrights, including two Guthrie-commissioned plays.
In addition to his work on stage, Dowling's tenure will be remembered for its emphasis on actor training, with the creation of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program (over 180 graduates), A Guthrie Experience for Actors in Training (more than 200 participants), and a seven-year partnership with The Acting Company of New York, affording young actors an opportunity to perform classics on tour throughout the country. Additionally, in 2001 Dowling developed the well-regarded WorldStage Series, a program that invites internationally distinguished theater companies and artists to perform on Guthrie stages. More than a dozen companies have presented their work on Guthrie stages, including the Royal Shakespeare Company with Sir Ian McKellen in King Lear, Kneehigh Theatre with Brief Encounter and Tristan & Yseult under the direction of Emma Rice, and Druid Theatre Company with its production of DruidSynge directed by Garry Hynes. Additionally, Dowling fulfilled his personal and professional commitment to the Twin Cities arts community by hosting more than 33 local companies in the Dowling Studio, a 200-seat black box theater he envisioned for productions, presentations and workshops that would showcase the work of both emerging and established organizations.
The 2014-2015 Guthrie subscription season includes nine productions, beginning with The White Snake (September 9 - October 19, 2014), written and directed by Tony Award-winner Mary Zimmerman, on the McGuire Proscenium Stage. It's a beloved ancient Chinese story: girl meets boy and falls head over heels. The only problem is that the girl is a serpent from the spirit world and to win her love's heart she must come down from the mountain and take human form. There, she unexpectedly finds happiness until a vengeful monk discovers her true identity and is determined to destroy her life and love. With live music, puppetry and visual metaphors, this fable-as popular as Cinderella is in the West-comes to life in a ravishing theatrical spectacle. Time raved Zimmerman's work "recaptures the primal allure of the theater" and The Huffington Post said she "turns ancient stories into grand spectacles that are as fresh as the 21st century." This marks the first time Zimmerman's work will be seen at the Guthrie.
The Guthrie subscription season continues with Wendy Wasserstein's Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Heidi Chronicles (September 13 - October 26, 2014) on the Wurtele Thrust Stage. This celebrated play traces the coming of age of Heidi Holland from high school in the '60s to her career as an art historian in the '80s. With wit, grace and authenticity Wasserstein examines the changing role of women, the progress of a generation, and the trials we as individuals face as we wrestle with the big question: What should we do with our lives? Variety raved "not many plays manage Heidi's feat of inducing almost continuous laughter while forcing the audience to examine its preconceptions," while the New York Daily News said it's "not just a funny play, but a wise one."
For holiday entertainment opposite A Christmas Carol, the Guthrie presents The Cocktail Hour (November 22, 2014 - January 4, 2015), a comedy by A.R. Gurney, directed by Maria Aitken (Broadway's The 39 Steps). Set in Buffalo, New York, the play begins as John arrives for dinner at his parents' home carrying the script of his soon-to-be produced play that depicts his uppercrust WASP family. Just as the martinis begin to flow over a comically extended cocktail session, so do the revelations and recriminations, both funny and poignant. The Boston Globe raved "If it's martini-dry wit you crave, you'll find it here." With its booze-fueled banter, Gurney (Love Letters) offers a heartfelt comedy of manners about the ties that bind. The Cocktail Hour will be the first time A.R. Gurney's work appears at the Guthrie.
A crown jewel in Dowling's artistic tenure is his astonishing gift for reimagining Shakespeare's joyous romantic comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream (February 7 - March 29, 2015), from the production in his inaugural season - fondly remembered for the hilarious hijinks of the memorably Minnesotan "Mechnanicals" - to his second smash-hit a decade later, a visual feast showcasing the talents of actors from the U of M/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program. With a fresh new interpretation directed by Dowling and director and choreographer David Bolger (H.M.S. Pinafore, Swimming with My Mother), Dowling will complete a remarkable trifecta of reimagining Shakespeare's popular play on the Guthrie's thrust stage for a new generation of theatergoers in his final season. Shakespeare's comedy weaves together four stories in a moonlit forest on a midsummer night: the marriage of the Athenian duke to the Amazon queen; the warring Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies; the follies of four lovers in a forest; and the comical efforts of working men and women to stage a play for the royal wedding.
Next on the proscenium stage will be Anne Washburn's outrageous new comedy Mr. Burns, a post-electric play (March 31 - May 10, 2015), a co-production with San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater, directed by Mark Rucker. With a score by Michael Friedman (Broadway's Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) and lyrics by Washburn, Mr. Burns begins in a dark dystopia where a group of surviving strangers bond by recreating from memory the iconic "Cape Feare" episode of "The Simpsons." As the story moves decades later, the recollection takes on a life of its own, becoming an almost religious-like fable, elaborately staged for adoring crowds through live theater and opera. Hailed as one of the Top Ten Plays of 2013, The New York Times wrote "Mr. Burns has arrived to leave you dizzy with the scope and dazzle of its ideas." Mr. Burns is a paean to the power of storytelling, an off-the-wall salute to the resilience of theater, and an ingenious exploration of how we share recollection, memory, and truth.
For the first time in 40 years the Guthrie will revisit Arthur Miller's The Crucible (April 11 - May 24, 2015). Written at the height of the McCarthyist witchhunts, this Tony Award-winning classic depicts the town of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692, as rumors of girls practicing witchcraft incite uncertainty and unrest. The God-fearing citizens are on their guard and no one is beyond suspicion. As investigations reach their height, a young woman points a finger at Elizabeth, the blameless wife of John Proctor. But Proctor finds he cannot save Elizabeth without unearthing his own black sin. Dowling, whose highly respected productions of Miller's Death of a Salesman and All My Sons also graced the thrust stage during his tenure, is slated to direct.
Next on the proscenium will be Sean O'Casey's epic tale of survival Juno and the Paycock (May 23 - June 28, 2015), under the direction of Joe Dowling, whose legendary Gate Theatre production helped to launch his prolific directorial career in the United States. When it opened on Broadway in 1988, The New York Times raved "Dowling's Juno is alive at every level - as boisterous comedy, as wrenching tragedy, as blistering social commentary," adding "O'Casey isn't Shakespeare or Beckett, but that Shakespearean brew of taproom farce and high drama materializes here, as do the bleak shadows of a distinctly modern Irish landscape." In this portrait of a family in Dublin following the Irish Civil War, Jack Boyle, known as the "paycock," is out of work and spends his time drinking and playing cards as Juno, the matriarch, attempts to keep their family together in the midst of political conflict. When the family learns of an inheritance from a distant relative, the money is spent before it arrives, jeopardizing their opportunity to overcome an inevitably bleak future. This will be the Guthrie's first production of the masterpiece since the 1973-1974 season.
The Guthrie will then present its first-ever staging of Meredith Willson's The Music Man (June 20 - August 23, 2015), the classic American musical about the fast-talking traveling salesman "Professor" Harold Hill whose money-making scheme charms the locals of River City, Iowa. Hill convinces them to buy instruments and uniforms for a boys band he promises to lead, until his scheme is uncovered and he unwittingly falls head-over-heels in love. Overflowing with a parade of toe-tapping songs including "Goodnight, My Someone," "Gary, Indiana," "Till There Was You," and "Seventy-Six Trombones," the Tony-winning musical will play on the thrust stage under the direction of John Miller-Stephany (Roman Holiday, 1776).
Also in the summer of 2015, the Guthrie will present the recent Off-Broadway smash Stage Kiss (July 18 - August 30, 2015) by Pulitzer finalist and Tony Award nominee Sarah Ruhl (Dead Man's Cell Phone, In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play)), under the direction of Casey Stangl (Third) on the proscenium stage. Stage Kiss centers on two actors with a history, HE and SHE, and what happens when they're thrown together as romantic leads in a forgotten 1930s melodrama and lose touch with reality as the story onstage follows them offstage. Vulture raved "Stage Kiss itself is a gift and a rarity: a superb new romantic comedy that does justice to both sides of the genre equation. It's moving, smart, and flat-out hilarious." Stage Kiss will be the first time Ruhl's work appears at the Guthrie.
Dowling announced productions that will play in the Dowling Studio next season, including Keith Huff's biting duologue A Steady Rain (October 14 - November 2, 2014). An Odyssey Theatre Ensemble production, directed by Steppenwolf Theatre Company Co-Founder Jeff Perry, A Steady Rain explores the complexities of a lifelong bond between two policemen, tainted by domestic affairs, violence and the rough streets of Chicago. The Guthrie will also present Choir Boy (June 16 - July 5, 2015) by Tarell Alvin McCraney (The Brothers Size, In the Red and Brown Water). Directed by Peter Rothstein and featuring gospel music, Choir Boy centers on a young black man who wants nothing more than to be a leader in his school's legendary gospel choir, and grapples with finding his way inside as he sings in his own key.
Dowling announced the Guthrie would continue its partnership with the New York-based The Acting Company for a seventh year with A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, playing in repertory with Macbeth by William Shakespeare, directed by Devin Brain in the Dowling Studio.
The Guthrie will also welcome Flying Foot Forum, a developmental work with Mu Performing Arts featuring Mayda Slice, Jon Ferguson's Theater Forever, Pillsbury House Theatre and The Mount Curve Company, 7th House Theater, The Telling Project, and an immersive performance created by Sarah Agnew, Nick Golfis and Chantal Pavageaux to the Dowling Studio in the 2014-2015 season.
In addition to the nine plays of the subscription season and studio productions, Dowling announced that the Guthrie will present its 40th annual production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (November 13 - December 28, 2014), the perennial favorite that received a new adaptation by Crispin Whittell in 2010 and continues the Guthrie's longstanding holiday tradition. Joe Chvala will direct the production on the Wurtele Thrust Stage for a third year.
Nine plays of the 2014-2015 season are available as part of the subscription series at the Guthrie Theater - The Heidi Chronicles, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Crucible and Meredith Willson's The Music Man on the Wurtele Thrust Stage and The White Snake, The Cocktail Hour, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, Juno and the Paycock and Stage Kiss on the McGuire Proscenium Stage. New season subscriptions range in price from $60 to $577 and go on sale June 17. Single tickets for The White Snake, The Heidi Chronicles, The Cocktail Hour and all Dowling Studio shows go on sale August 1, 2014. Single tickets for A Christmas Carol go on sale September 2. Single tickets for A Midsummer Night's Dream, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, The Crucible and Juno and the Paycock go on sale October 15, 2014. Single tickets for Meredith Willson's The Music Man and Stage Kiss go on sale February 10, 2015. Single ticket prices for all mainstage shows excluding A Christmas Carol range from $15 to $86; Dowling Studio shows range from $15 - $39; and A Christmas Carol ranges from $15 - $116. Discounts are available for students, seniors and children.
For more information or to purchase tickets or season subscriptions, call the Guthrie Theater Box Office 612.377.2224 or toll-free 877.44.STAGE, 612.225.6244 (Group Sales) and online at www.guthrietheater.org.