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A New Theatre.

A New Theatre

Tyrone Guthrie, with foreward by Joe Dowling

University of Minnesota Press

111 Third Avenue South, Suite 290, Minneapolis, MN 55401 612-627-1970

ISBN 9780816653607 $15.95

Now in a newly updated and expanded edition, "A New Theatre" is a fascinating description of the founding and launching of the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1963. Written by the great director himself, "A New Theatre" traces the four year (and longer) process of investigating appropriate communities, seeking building coalitions with business and philanthropic theatre supporters, and designing, building and successfully opening one of the most notable American regional repertory theatres to date. Full of pungent witticisms and underlying humour, "A New Theatre" expands the reader's awareness of the importance of classical theater in American, or indeed any culture. Perhaps today it is difficult to imagine the magnitude of the undertaking of creating a viable, artistically rigorous classic repertory theater in the Upper Midwest of the early 60's. "A New Theatre" reminds us of some of the ground that was broken in this stunning pioneer effort. A foreward by Joe Dowling, present Artistic Director of the Guthrie, explains that the theater's latest reincarnation, a wonderful new complex on the Mississippi River, has evolved into a place where "Future generations of actors, directors, and writers will have ideal conditions to create and develop their work, and the beautiful audience facilities combined with the iconic architecture of Jean Nouvel will maintain and even enhance the Guthrie's ability to attract both local and national support (p. 6)." Hence the present need for retelling the story of the beginning of the Guthrie in the words of its founder, Sir Tyrone Guthrie himself.

Included in the chapter on Rehearsals and Opening are black and white photos of the early company, even volunteers organizing to support the Guthrie, and amazing reviews of the opening productions of "Hamlet" and "The Miser" and others, from 1963. Life was not all strawberries and cream and roses for the early company. Certain reviewers seemed to need to make their aim to denigrate rather than to digest. Nevertheless, the Theatre began to thrive. I was fortunate enough to live in the area in the early 60's and I remember well attending the 1963 productions of "Hamlet," "The Miser," and "Death of a Salesman." My mother was determined that we should all benefit from this wonderful new cultural opportunity that we were beginning here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I loved it all.

"A New Theatre" is both a chronicle of an amazing cultural undertaking and a salute to a glorious beginning that continues to prosper and grow today. It has great appeal to both the nostalgic audience whose memories it touches, and new audiences whose present experience is informed and enhanced by it. It is also a very entertaining book to read. I close with one of Guthrie's favorite statements to his actors: "Astonish me in the morning!" What a legacy this is to us all!

Nancy Lorraine

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Author:Lorraine, Nancy
Publication:MBR Bookwatch
Article Type:Book review
Date:Aug 1, 2008
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