BEHIND THE STORY | Towards a Minnesota aesthetic

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In the over 50 years of the Guthrie’s Theater’s existence, it’s never had an Artistic Director that was from Minnesota. All of the Artistic Directors have come from either overseas or New York, with the exception being Garland Wright, who originally was from Dallas but was based in New York City when he was hired. Now there are many good reasons for this, mainly having to do with keeping the Guthrie as an institution with a national reputation, but I don’t see why, after all this time, we couldn’t have an Artistic Director whose career was nurtured right here in Minnesota.

I can think of plenty of candidates just at the top of my head. Randy Reyes, who recently was chosen by Mu Performing Arts as their new Artistic Director, would make a fine choice as someone who has appeared a number of times on the Guthrie stage, is charismatic, a strong new voice and one that could help shoulder in more diversity into the season. There are plenty of other viable candidates as well. Aditi Kapil, Peter Rothstein, Marion McClinton, Wendy Knox, Harry Waters Jr., are just a few that come to the top of my head.

If we want to have institutions that can not only be the premiere sources of artistic experience for people that live here but also can draw attention to the city in other parts of the country and the world, we can’t simply just import artists from other places that have better talent. The fact is there’s plenty of talent here, and there’s reason to nurture what makes Minnesota unique.

What I’m talking about is a Minnesota aesthetic. And no, that doesn’t mean Prairie Home Companion nostalgia. I’m talking about forces of creativity that are actually happening here that are great and why don’t we give those things more support? We have one of the most vibrant Native art scenes in the country right now, for example. We have a unique cultivation of independent choreographers that inform each other, in large part because so many of them support each others work by seeing shows and offering critique and venues like 9 X 22. We have incredible voices coming out of our diverse immigrant community and long standing tradition of Black Arts through the work of Penumbra that continues to evolve and grow. In theater, we have the lingering influence of Theatre de la Jeune Lune as well as strong traditions of companies strongly based in their communities like In the Heart of the Beast, Pillsbury House, Bedlam Theatre and others. Why not tap into what makes Minnesota Theater unique, instead of always looking elsewhere for ideas about what to do?

We don’t have to be insular. There’s nothing wrong with bringing in people from other cities and countries as a way to expand the dialogue, learn new things and help inform our artistic practices and tastes. I’m simply humbly suggesting that perhaps, for Minnesota’s top theater job, we consider this one time picking one of our own.