Park Square, Guthrie Theater swap plays, solve scheduling problems

Scheduling problems. It's the bane of many a theater director, because not only do they have to program their own seasons, but they have to also apply for the rights to produce certain plays.

Different plays have different licensing restrictions, and bigger theaters have more clout than smaller ones in getting new work.

So when Park Square Theatre Artistic Director Richard Cook found out that a play he believed he'd secured -- "Mr. Burns" -- was already spoken for by the Guthrie Theater, he was dismayed to say the least.

Cook had already announced his season with quite a bit of fanfare, and "Mr. Burns" was going to be the premiere performance in Park Square's new second stage.

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Before Cook had a chance to figure out his next move, he got a call from London. It was Guthrie Director Joe Dowling. Dowling had heard about the mix-up, and wanted to help make it right.

"In the way the business runs the Guthrie could have grabbed the license and run with it without saying a word. They're the big guys," said Cook. "But that's not the spirit at all. Joe's been amazing about activating his own staff to help us rebuild our season in a way that I was excited about."

The Guthrie staff worked with the Park Square staff to come up with a solution -- and they found one.

Another play,  "4,000 Miles," was on the Guthrie's short list for the 2014-2015 season, but it would be a great fit to replace "Mr. Burns" on the new Park Square stage. So the Guthrie released the rights for the play, and helped make sure that those rights went to Park Square.

In addition, the Guthrie staff is offering Park Square subscribers a special ticket price for the its production of "Mr. Burns" similar to what they would have paid if they'd seen it at Park Square. Problem solved.

"'Mr. Burns' has a special quality with its connection to 'The Simpsons' that can't be duplicated, and I'm sorry that we're not having the fun of doing it," said Cook, "but I'm glad that it's getting a prominent Twin Cities production and I hope that the Guthrie does a bang-up job."

The Guthrie Theater will release the details of its 2014-2015 season on April 10.