The Guthrie Reflects Today's Audiences... Or Does It?

Apr 22, 2012

On April 16, 2012, the Guthrie Theater announced its 2012-2013 50th anniversary season, which has been greeted with mixed reactions.

The Guthrie's stated mission is: an American center for theater performance, production, education and professional training. By presenting both classical literature and new work from diverse cultures, the Guthrie illuminates the common humanity connecting Minnesota to the peoples of the world.

In the podcast announcement, director Joe Dowling announces that the season will open with a celebration of playwright Christopher Hampton, producing his plays Tales of Hollywood, Embers, Youth Without God and the world premiere of Appomattox. Dowling said:

"The intention around the Hampton celebration is to have all of our three theaters filled with Christopher's work. At the same time within the community the great many of the organizations we work with will be fascinated by the series of issues that are raised by [these works].. We intend to engage with a number of community organizations to bring discussion about the plays, about the work and about the themes of the work. Because one of the big things we discovered with Kushner, and we hope will be the same with Hampton, is that our community is indeed hungry, not just for the works by these big playwrights, but also for the discussion that surrounds them.

"Where with Tony those discussions were very largely social,issues, here with Christopher they will be historic and of political importance as well... [The celebration] will be the opening of our season. It will be a very strong indication that in this 50th year we are moving forward with contemporary work with an examination of American politics, American history, American culture and talking to our community about these themes that Christopher has outlined for us."

The Guthrie's 50th season focuses on war, race, history, politics and modern family themes as seen in other selected repertoire including Bruce Norris' 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama Clybourne Park.

Themes aside, many are criticizing The Guthrie following the season announcement, asking where's the diversity in the Guthrie's new season?

Posted by Marianne Combs, State of the Arts blogger: "Of the 12 productions slated for the Guthrie's two large stages, not one of plays was written by a woman, and only one of them (Nice Fish) is being co-directed by a woman. In addition, the men involved in writing and staging these plays are all white - the most diverse among them is Carlo Goldoni, an Italian playwright from the 1700s. The Guthrie's third stage, the Dowling Studio, has yet to be fully programmed for the coming season, but at this point it does include one play co-written by a woman. It's an adaptation of Homer's Iliad."

Leah Cooper, who is both a theater director and the head of the Minnesota Theater Alliance, says it's insulting and degrading to see so little regard for representation by the state's largest performing arts institution.

"For artists it's insulting and degrading to see so little regard for representation by the state's largest performing arts institution. But for all our citizens - audiences, artists, donors, volunteers, tax-payers, students - this is mainstream arts telling us that the voices and stories and perspective of women and people of color are not important, not relevant, not worth telling, sharing or knowing. The Guthrie has a tremendous amount of talent, resource, and community support with which its artists could be broadening our experience, inspiring us to greater empathy and deeper understanding of ALL the people in our world. And like any theater, they depend on growing and diversifying their audience to thrive. So the continued bias against women and people of color in leadership and authorship is either embarrassingly myopic or willfully negligent."

Subsequently, MPR News asked the question: What role should diversity play when an arts organization makes program choices? Read public responses and post your thoughts below. 

Tags: American culture, American history, American politics, artists, arts organization, audiences, authorship, bias, classical literature, community, contemporary work, director, diverse, diverse cultures, diversity, donors, education, historic, history, humanity, leadership, mainstream arts, men, mission, modern family themes, new work, people of color, performance, plays, playwright, political, politics, production, professional training, race, repertoire, representation, season, season announcement, social, staging, stories, students, tax-payers, theater, theatre, volunteers, war, white, woman, women, world premiere, writing

Sub Categories

DIVERSITY: Leadership
DIVERSITY: Diversity and the Arts
DIVERSITY: Production
DIVERSITY: Board Leadership
DIVERSITY: African American / Black Community
DIVERSITY: Latino / Hispanic
DIVERSITY: Asian American
DIVERSITY: American Indian
DIVERSITY: Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander
DIVERSITY: Generations
DIVERSITY: Education
DIVERSITY: Audience Development
DIVERSITY: White/Caucasian


Kelly » Apr 24, 2012 10:37pm
I wonder where TCG _Theatre Communications Group will land? Have we seen anything, but lip service to this discussion particularly of descrimination of women in theatre since forever in the pages of American Theatre. Diversity yes, Gender descrimination? Rarely or never. Thanks for posting this... yes change. KG