Guthrie announces 2013-2014 season

Joe Dowling is cheerily blunt about what goes into deciding what goes into a theatrical season, particularly when the theater in question is the Guthrie in Minneapolis

"I think the main thing that goes through one's mind putting any season together is the desire to have large numbers of people come and see the plays," he said.

The season announced this evening is broad-ranging, covering everything from Shakespeare to contemporary local pieces. And there will be more once the Studio Theater schedule is set.

When asked about themes in the season Dowling says deciding to open the season with Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" and to close it with Christopher Durang's "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" which is based on Chekhov's writings was slightly tongue in cheek.

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He also sees what you might call a spatial spread in the plays.

"In the Wurtele Thrust Stage there will be a fairly classical repertoire between 'Othello,' and 'My Fair Lady,' and 'Crimes of the Heart' and 'Vanya,' he said "So we are looking at big important plays, and then in the Proscenium we are doing more contemporary work."

Dowling who is a self-admitted Chekov fan will direct "Vanya," in an adaptation by fellow Irishman Brian Friel. Dowling says he loves the way Chekhov uses language and creates characters, but admits sometimes the shows can seem stodgy. He says Friel's adaptation is a stripped down version which is lighter on its feet.

"At times some of the translations can be a little bit top-heavy and a little bit more static than they ought to be. One of the great things about Brian Friel, because he is a great playwright himself, is that he brings his own signal sense of humor to it."

Another classic that leaps out from the season is Shakespeare's "Othello" to be directed by Marion McClinton, the celebrated Minneapolis director known for his work in New York, which includes productions of August Wilson's work.

"He brings a tremendous intelligence to his work," said Dowling. "So I am really looking forward to seeing what Marion will make of this. There's very few of Shakespeare's plays that are without contemporary controversy. Very few of them, if they are presented properly, won't raise some questions in our contemporary society. That's what makes him a great playwright."

Dowling also picks out Nina Raine's play "Tribes" as being a major catch. It's about a young man called Billy.

"He's deaf," said Dowling. "And the family doesn't do sign language and he discovers through a new girlfriend, how empowering sign language is. Wendy Goldberg who directed here a couple of years ago is coming back to direct it, and it's a piece I think will have a tremendous significance. It's going to open the season in the Proscenium theater."

The play will be partially presented in American Sign Language, and will also have surtitles.

Dowling is also pleased with the companies returning from overseas for the Worldstage productions.

There is Kneehigh Theater, who presented the extremely successful "Brief Encounter" at the Guthrie two summers ago. It will present "Tristan and Yseult"

Also from the UK Out of Joint Theater will return to do "Our Country's Good" by Timberlake Wertenbaker, based on a piece by Thomas Keneally.

"Max Stafford-Clark is one of the top directors in the world," said Dowling, "And his production of "Our Country's Good" which I saw recently in London is the 25th anniversary of a really great modern play about theater itself. It is about the first play ever done in Australia."

It's the story of how in 1780 an army second lieutenant seeks to advance his career by putting on a Restoration comedy using a cast of convicts from the local penal colony.

In terms of smaller productions the Guthrie is announcing two shows in the Dowling Studio for the moment. One is David Goldstein's "Skiing on Broken Glass" which was first presented at the Fringe Festival and now will receive a full production. Dowling says there will also be a production of "Freud's Last Session" about a meeting which may have taken place between Freud and author and theologian CS Lewis on the day war broke out in 1939.

"It's a debate really between the spirituality of C.S. Lewis and the atheism of Freud," Dowling said. "We will be announcing fairly soon a large number of presentations that we do in the studio, and that will be local companies."

The full schedule is listed below.

The one time Dowling seemed irked during our chat was when I brought up the controversy which swirled around the announcement of the current season. Some critics questioned the lack of female playwrights and directors in the 50th season.

When asked if the range of the new season is a reaction to that Dowling is emphatic.

"No!" he said "I said last year and I'll say it again. It was a bogus argument which didn't hold water for one second and it was encouraged by people who should have known better."

Dowling said it's unreasonable to pluck out one season. He says the Guthrie should be judged over it's years of presentations.

"The Guthrie is not misogynistic and has a lot of diversity," he said

"It certainly did some PR damage to us but I am glad to say it didn't do any damage in terms of the number of subscribers we have," he continued. "And it hasn't done any damage in terms of people's enjoyment or non-enjoyment of individual plays."

Dowling said seasons can be the result of years of planning, and he's already working on the 2014-2015 list.


On the Wurtele Thrust Stage

September 14 - October 27, 2013

Uncle Vanya

by Anton Chekhov

in a version by Brian Friel

directed by Joe Dowling

Opening Night: September 20

November 14 - December 29, 2013

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

adapted by Crispin Whittell

directed by Joe Chvala

Opening Night: November 20

March 8 - April 20, 2014

Othello, the Moor of Venice

by William Shakespeare

directed by Marion McClinton

Opening Night: March 14

May 3 - June 15, 2014

Crimes of the Heart

by Beth Henley

directed by Marcela Lorca

Opening Night: May 9

June 28 - August 31, 2014

My Fair Lady

book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner

music by Frederick Loewe

based on Pygmalion

by George Bernard Shaw

directed by Joe Dowling

Opening Night: July 4

On the McGuire Proscenium Stage

October 5 - November 10, 2013


by Nina Raine

directed by Wendy Goldberg

Opening Night: October 11

November 23, 2013 - January 5, 2014

Born Yesterday

by Garson Kanin

directed by John Miller-Stephany

Opening Night: November 29

February 13 - March 23, 2014

The Guthrie Theater's WorldStage Series presents

a Kneehigh Theatre production of

Tristan and Yseult

by Anna Maria Murphy & Carl Grose

adapted and directed by Emma Rice

Opening Night: February 14

March 22 - April 19, 2014

The Guthrie Theater presents

a Penumbra Theatre Company production of

The Mountaintop

by Katori Hall

directed by Lou Bellamy

Opening Night: March 22

April 22 - May 4, 2014

The Acting Company in association with

the Guthrie Theater presents


by William Shakespeare

directed by Ian Belknap


Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

by Tom Stoppard

directed by John Rando

Opening Night: April 22

May 22 - June 29, 2014

The Guthrie Theater's WorldStage Series presents

an Out of Joint production of

Our Country's Good

by Timberlake Wertenbaker

based on The Playmaker by Thomas Keneally

directed by Max Stafford-Clark

Opening Night: May 23

July 19 - August 31, 2014

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

by Christopher Durang

directed by Joel Sass

Opening Night: July 25

In the Dowling Studio

October 29 - November 17, 2013

Skiing on Broken Glass

by David Goldstein

directed by Joe Dowling

Opening Night: November 1

February 25 - March 16, 2014

Freud's Last Session

by Mark St. Germain

directed by TBD

Opening Night: February 28