The Guthrie’s new look

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The new $125-million Guthrie opened in Minneapolis this weekend. The building is French architect Jean Nouvel’s first completed North American project, and one of the largest theatrical arts building projects in the country. The Guthrie’s new building replaces its former facility at Vineland Place in Minneapolis. The new three-theater complex sits on the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, emerging as a new architectural landmark that celebrates the Guthrie’s illustrious past and projects a confident future.

The 285,000-square-foot theater complex offers the circular form of its thrust theater to mirror the feeling created by historic grain silos of nearby flour mills. Three vertical LED signs on top of the Guthrie reflect the industrial signage in the area, and a cantilevered “Endless Bridge,” extending the equivalent of twelve stories toward the Mississippi, provides spectacular views of the historic river valley. At dusk the twilight-blue theater complex seamlessly fades into the night, leaving only a few carefully chosen pictorial accents – large-scale images from past Guthrie productions screen printed onto the building’s exterior – floating like ghosts in the dark.

“The new Guthrie will have a profound impact on both the cultural and economic life of the area. It will continue to attract the world’s greatest theater artists, as well as thousands of visitors who will celebrate Minneapolis as a world-class cultural destination,” said Guthrie Artistic Director Joe Dowling. “Nouvel’s design immediately identifies the building as a theater, as a place of mystery, a place where poetry mingles with image. It’s a striking example of how Nouvel links architecture and the arts so carefully.”

The new Guthrie Theater will house a 1,100-seat thrust stage, with audience seating on three sides, a 700-seat proscenium stage, and a 200-seat flexible-seating studio blackbox. The three spaces will enable the Guthrie to showcase a broad range of performances, from Shakespeare and other classics to contemporary works by the next generation of writers, directors, actors and designers.

The Guthrie’s 2006-2007 season presents eleven plays with staggered openings in all three of the new performing spaces. The Wurtele Thrust Stage opens with the world premiere on July 21 of Simon Levy’s new adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, directed by David Esbjornson. Joe Dowling directs Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing to open August 11 on the McGuire Proscenium Stage. The second world premiere of the season, The Fallsby Jeffrey Hatcher, inaugurates the Dowling Studio on August 19, under Bill Rauch’s direction. Between August 19 and September 10, audiences will have the first opportunity to see all three stages in use simultaneously, showcasing the range and versatility of the new Guthrie.

The season continues on the Thrust Stage with Neil Simon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy Lost in Yonkers, directed by Gary Gisselman; and on the Proscenium Stage with Alfred Uhry’s newest work, Edgardo Mine, directed by Mark Lamos. Gisselman returns to direct the Guthrie’s holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. The Tennessee Williams classic The Glass Menagerie opens next on the Proscenium, followed by Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice on the Thrust, both directed by Dowling. The season ends with a classic on the Proscenium – Shaw’s Major Barbara, directed by Lisa Peterson; a world premiere in the Studio – Julie Marie Myatt’s Boats on a River, directed by Michael Bigelow Dixon; and a classic American musical on the Thrust – Edwards and Stone’s 1776, directed by John Miller-Stephany.

The Guthrie will be open to the public, allowing non-ticket holders to enjoy the restaurant, bars and spectacular views. The Guthrie’s dramatic restaurant, Cue, designed by The Durrant Group Inc., overlooks the Mississippi on the first level, and will be open for lunch, dinner and post-show dining. In addition, the Guthrie will offer pre-show dining in the lobby on the fifth floor, and beverage service at eleven locations throughout the building’s public spaces.

The Theater includes a parking garage across 2nd Street that can accommodate up to 1,000 cars.

The new Guthrie provides the organization’s first-ever dedicated classroom spaces. Four classrooms (including one equipped with state-of-the-art distance learning technology) will house the Guthrie Learning Center, which will offer personal enrichment programs for children and adults, in content areas ranging from summer drama camps to corporate training. The classrooms, along with the Studio Theater, will also house the Theater’s actor training programs, including the BFA Acting program, a partnership with the University of Minnesota.

Architect Jean Nouvel was born in 1945 in Fumel, a village in the Southwest of France. At the age of thirty he opened his own office, where he has worked to create a stylistic language separate from that of modernism and post-modernism. Nouvel earned a place for himself amongst the very best in contemporary architecture with his Nemausus residential building, the Arab World Institute in Paris (both in 1987), the Lyon Opera House (1993), the Cartier Foundation in Paris (1994) and the Galeries Lafayette in Berlin (1996). His concert hall in Lucerne, Switzerland was opened in August 1998.

The Guthrie Theater was founded in 1963 by Sir Tyrone Guthrie. Joe Dowling, the Theater’s Artistic Director since 1995, has led the Guthrie to unprecedented growth; subscriptions have reached an all-time high, and he has led the campaign for the new Guthrie – a national center for theater arts and theater education.

Lenny Russo is executive chef of the Guthrie restaurants. Scheduled to open this week, the restaurants are operated for the Guthrie by Bon Appétit Management Company, a food service provider that specializes in locally and sustainably sourced foods. Lenny Russo, known for his innovative approach to working directly with local farmers to provide seasonal and artisan-created products from the region, will maintain his ownership stake in his restaurant, Heartland, while devoting 100 percent of his time to the new restaurants at the Guthrie. The Guthrie’s promises offer a world-class dining experience that reflects the Midwest’s culinary heritage.

“We are thrilled to have such an exciting team in Bon Appétit and Lenny Russo, and we look forward to creative cuisine being a part of the experience at the new Guthrie,” said Joe Dowling.

“It is an honor to accept the opportunity to help create the new restaurants for the venerable Guthrie Theater. Joining Bon Appétit is a natural fit as its ‘Farm to Fork’ program is consistent with my values of working cooperatively with small farmers and of encouraging sustainable and traditional agricultural practices,” said Russo. Bon Appétit’s Farm to Fork program stipulates that chefs source as much food as possible directly from farmers and artisan producers within a radius of 150 miles of the restaurant where it is served. These food sourcing methods help keep small farmers in business, contributing to the local economy while showcasing authentic, fresh and delicious foods to restaurants guests.

“This season reflects the evolution of the Guthrie,” Joe Dowling said. “We chose plays that will provide our audiences – both long-time subscribers and the new patrons who want to visit us for the first time – with works that are the embodiment of our mission to produce the classics alongside the best contemporary plays.”