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Guthrie Theater Reports Loss of Nearly $3 Million Due to the Pandemic

Despite the year it had, the theater remains financially stable.

Guthrie Theater Reports Loss of Nearly $3 Million Due to the Pandemic

Despite a tumultuous fiscal year that ended on August 31, 2020, Board Chair James L. Chosy, Artistic Director Joseph Haj and Managing Director James Haskins reported that the theater remains financially stable, engaged in critical work and hopeful for the future. Twin Cities theater artist Regina Marie Williams spoke to the Guthrie's programming collaborations with the newly formed MN Black Theatre Circle, and Director of Production Rebecca Cribbin addressed facility maintenance and upgrades to be made during the shutdown.

"The theater is in a stable position, our sails are set and our guiding stars are clear: We will continue to make decisions through the lens of our mission, vision and core values," said Haj. "When we can ensure it is safe to gather and produce theater again, I am confident the Guthrie will be as vibrant and vital to our community, our region and the field as it has ever been."

The Guthrie was on its way to achieving an operating budget of $28.66 million for FY20 when operations were shuttered. In April 2020, the theater worked to secure a Paycheck Protection Program loan, enabling the theater to maintain all staff on payroll through mid-June. While the Guthrie awaits a response to a request for loan forgiveness, the theater reports an FY20 operating loss of $2.72 million.

A large part of the Guthrie's steady year-end position is the result of contributed revenue from foundations, corporations and individuals. Through an emergency relief campaign, ticket donations, a virtual benefit and the theater's annual fund, the Guthrie's donor base grew by 29% over the previous season, contributing 44% of the theater's budget. As part of the emergency relief campaign, the Guthrie Family Fund dispensed more than 180 grants for out-of-work artists and laid-off staff.

Prior to the shutdown, the Guthrie presented 283 performances across 14 productions and welcomed 181,364 patrons in person. Of all tickets issued, 29% were free or subsidized and 20% were for children, students and educators.

As the realities of not being able to produce theater for the foreseeable future set in, the theater also experienced a painful reduction in staff by 79% in order to maintain operations while its stages are dark, dropping from 262 full-time and part-time staff members to 55.

As the Guthrie entered its 2020-2021 Season in September 2020, it outlined four key objectives: programming and patron engagement; racial justice; play development; and staff and capital investments. When it was determined that the theater could not safely resume performances in March 2021 as planned, the board of directors approved an FY21 expense budget in October 2020 that allowed the organization to maintain its continuous employees, create and promote virtual projects, commit to working with local Black artists, invest in commissions, begin capital projects, and plan for rebuilding and reopening the organization.

In a year that would have brought the 46th consecutive production of A Christmas Carol to the Guthrie stage, the theater continued its tradition virtually December 19a?'31, 2020, through Dickens' Holiday Classic, adapted and directed by E.G. Bailey of Freestyle Films and Joseph Haj. Patrons from all 87 Minnesota counties, all 50 states, Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and 15 other countries viewed the show. Additionally, an estimated 150,000 K-12 students experienced the classic at no cost. In December, the Guthrie also partnered with several regional theaters to co-produce Amir Nizar Zuabi's This Is Who I Am and offered a virtual presentation of Taylor Mac's Holiday Sauce ... Pandemic!

Classes for adults and youth, professional training for students in the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program and vital, collaborative work with members of the Native community have continued virtually.

In the wake of George Floyd's murder, the Guthrie began gathering insight from Black artists and community leaders, staff, board members, national advisers and industry colleagues on how the theater might work toward becoming a more anti-racist and inclusive organization. Concurrent to these conversations, the organization made public its ongoing anti-racism work and commitments, which outlines actions around organizational policies, mandatory training for staff and board members, employee recruitment and more.

One external aspect of this work involves collaboration with local Black artists. After holding two initial meetings in June 2020 with individuals ranging from B.F.A students to veteran Guthrie actors, the theater has continued to hold working sessions with an expanded group, recently named MN Black Theatre Circle, and seeks to build relationships that support the artists in their mission and goals, with an aim toward generating greater equity and inclusion and creating real and sustained change within the Guthrie. These meetings led to a series of projects presented in partnership with the Guthrie on a monthly basis from October 2020 to May 2021.

Upcoming projects include: Dark Muse Performing Arts' The Uprising Volume II: Black HERstory, directed by Vanessa Brooke Agnes, which blends storytelling, poetry, dance and music to celebrate the experiences and contributions of Black womxn. The program will stream for free on the Guthrie's YouTube channel on February 1, 2021, at 7 p.m. CST. Regina Marie Williams' new play Dining With the Ancestors will be released virtually on March 14, 2021, marking the anniversary of the death of Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. In April 2021, audiences will be invited to a virtual showing of Oya Mae Duchess' Tears of a Willow, a play that investigates sexual assault, mental health and police brutality.

In May 2021, a multiday festival produced by MN Black Theatre Circle with support from the Guthrie will feature performances, workshops and salons across the Twin Cities. The festival, titled Blackness Is ... , will culminate on May 25, 2021, exactly one year after the death of George Floyd's murder. More information about the festival will be announced in February 2021.

The Guthrie remains engaged in the following commissions to cultivate work for future seasons: Steel by Mark Rylance (Nice Fish) and Peter Reder; an adaptation of Jack Schaefer's Western novel Shane by Karen Zacarías (Destiny of Desire, Native Gardens); a piece by Amir Nizar Zuabi (This Is Who I Am, Grey Rock); and a project with Larissa Fasthorse (Sicangu Lakota) and Ty Defoe (Haudenosaunee, Six Nations/Anishinaabe Nation) of Indigenous Direction that centers the stories and experiences of the Twin Cities Native community.

For the first time in 10 years, the Guthrie will work toward producing an all-new adaptation of A Christmas Carol to be directed by Joseph Haj. After researching numerous adaptations, Haj selected a version by Lavina Jadhwani, a Chicago-based adapter and theatermaker who directed the Guthrie's 2018 production of As You Like It. The theater will reimagine the show's physical production and invest in a virtual design workshop for a creative team to begin planning a new visual aesthetic.

Although plans to stage Shakespeare's History Cycle in 2021 were canceled, the Guthrie is committed to hiring more than a dozen local actors for a virtual workshop of the plays this spring with hopes of presenting the cycle in a future season.

While stages are dark, and with the support of production staff, the Guthrie will continue to make essential capital investments in its nearly 15-year-old building, from retuning acoustics to recovering seats to repainting lobbies.

On June 25, 2021, the 15th anniversary of the theater's building opening, the Guthrie will host its annual fundraising benefit. This one-night-only, virtual event will celebrate the milestone in musical style with a concert featuring Tony and Grammy winner Leslie Odom, Jr. Ticketing details will be announced this spring.

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