“Charley’s Aunt” review was unfair to the Guthrie Theater/University of Minnesota BFA Acting Program


6 thoughts on ““Charley’s Aunt” review was unfair to the Guthrie Theater/University of Minnesota BFA Acting Program

  1. Let me say both Quentin and Sheila have points here. As a former (way former) reviewer for the Minneapolis STAR, I once wrote of actress Lonnie (WKRP) Anderson: “Each time she made an entrance, I expected her to hold up a product.” Or something like that. An editor cut it, suggesting it ridiculed the performer in a manner that was too personal.

    I’m not sure Sheila’s comments were “mean-spirited,” but they might’ve benefitted from my old editor’s eye.

    Even if her comments didn’t belong in a review, however, they are certainly worth exploring as a separated story/commentary in which the Guthrie and others have an opportunity to respond. And while she’s at it, she might ask why the Guthrie finds it necessary to produce “Charley’s Aunt” at all, except as a touring show for nursing homes.


  2. C.A. is cast age-appropriately with talented and extremely well-trained young actors: actors who have been trained to create specifically in that vocally and physically demanding space, and actors who’ve been intensively trained to work with classic and period material. As a voice and speech coach for 8 years at the Guthrie (of more than 30 productions, including many on the McGuire Proscenium) I know intimately the difficulties encountered by even the most experienced actors new to that space. To put a young person on that stage who has no experience of it is taking a big risk, both for the actor and the production. The Guthrie program has been designed to ready young actors for this challenge, and it’s entirely suitable and wise they be cast in roles they are right and ready for at the Guthrie.

    I’ve worked as a coach all over the country, and in casting in New York for several years, and encountered graduates of many BFA and MFA programs. I’ve yet to find a stronger group of 20-something actors than the Guthrie program has produced. There are very few programs as skills-oriented as the Guthrie’s, which is why you see Guthrie BFA graduates in major classical roles on and off Broadway, at other major regional theatres and Shakespeare Festivals, and on tour with the classically-oriented Acting Company. At any one time you’ll find them on major stages in San Francisco and LA to Steppenwolf and Chicago Shakespeare to the Guthrie (and many other Cities theatres) to Boston to Broadway. Right now, as a matter of fact.

    Guthrie graduates are clearly not being given a hand-up in theatres across the country for reasons of “tuition”. They are being given roles because they hands-down deserve them. As does the CA cast, many of whom have worked all over the country and choose to come back to the Guthrie as their artistic home.

    As well as coaching shows at the Guthrie, I helped select and taught the Guthrie BFA students. To imply that the casting of Guthrie students and alumni is mercenary is to accuse the University and the Guthrie of motives beyond the well-being and artistic growth of the students and graduates of the program and is beyond “cynical”. It’s insulting. In my years there I witnessed an extraordinary artistic staff and faculty who cared deeply about each student and would never consider giving a student or alumni a role at the G. they were not absolutely ready to be successful in.

    I haven’t seen this production, as I no longer live in the Cities. Clearly it wasn’t this reviewer’s cup of tea. But it reads to me that the reviewer came in with an agenda regarding the casting… an agenda that many who would like to work at the Guthrie but aren’t seem to have. I would encourage her to put aside that agenda if she is to continue to review productions, or perhaps, even more productively, to interview those teaching and casting Guthrie students so as to gain more information and a valid critical perspective.

    Elisa Carlson

  3. I am a graduate of the Guthrie prgram and I am a bit offended by the comments made. To assume that we as the BFA Grads. fought our way through the financal burden of college enticed by a part at this theater is insulting. Most of the students at this Program are out of State students and the cost is more than some families can bear. The number of Grads who make it to the Guthrie stage is under 50% so your facts are off. I would appreciate sheila do some reasearch before making claims, speculations or grievences. I wish the Guthrie would take a look at some of their artistic descions, but that has nothing to do with the BFA program.

  4. Perhaps they produced it because, done superbly, it was the most screamingly funny show I’ve seen in my 67 years.

    I refer to the American Conservitory Theater’s production about forty-five years ago at Stanford University, starring René Auberjonois as Babs.  This was the show that convinced members of the San Francisco Chanber of Commerce to offer ACT a home in San Francisco.


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