Guthrie opens a ‘Blue Door’ to questions of race, history, and identity


Lewis, a successful African-American mathematics professor, ponders his life’s meaning when his white wife leaves him because he refuses to join the Million Man March. During a sleepless night, Lewis is haunted by visions of three generations of his ancestors in the form of Rex, Jessie and Simon and how their history influenced his identity and his attitudes, particularly towards race relations.

Emigrant Theater’s production of Blue Door runs January 17-27 at the Guthrie Theater. Tickets are priced from $18 to $34 and are now on sale through the Guthrie Box Office at 612-377-2224 or online at

Lewis’s story is at the heart of Emigrant Theater’s production of Blue Door. Emigrant Theater, located in Minneapolis, was founded in 2004 to explore perspectives of the American identity, foster the ingenuity of the American voice, and champion living playwrights, said director Jessica Finney. And, she submits, Blue Door meets those objectives. “It’s a very intense play, with a lot of issues being dealt with. It’s very gripping. I think it’s great for this community to see.”

Eric Avery, who relocated to the Twin Cities a year ago, plays the part of the three ancestors. Avery, who trained as an actor at the University of Kansas, recently appeared in A Christmas Carol Petersen at the Ordway, in which he showcased his singing talents as well.

Avery believes that Blue Door is relevant today because it not only allows us a glimpse of the experience of an African-American man, but that it gives us a new way to look at ourselves today—individually and as a culture. “This play is our story. I see my story in there. I see my family’s story. It’s us. It embodies that same idea of linking the past and the present in one event,” he says.

Avery reflects that Blue Door inspired him to call his mom and talk to her about her experiences during the Civil Rights movement. He also felt a strong desire to reach out to other family members to get a deeper understanding of his past. The main message of this play, says Avery, is to allow yourself to be a person owning your past, owning where you’re going. It’s about being comfortable with who you are. “It is difficult,” he says, “no matter who you are, it’s often difficult to be that person.”

Jennifer Holder ( contributes regularly to the TC Daily Planet and the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.