November 23, 2008

The Guthrie Theater

I promised a post about the Guthrie, the theater in Minneapolis famous for the caliber of its plays and for the building itself in which they are performed. I had arrived a day early for a conference and took advantage of the extra time to see a play.

The theater was built in 2006 to replace the 1963 building named for Tyrone Guthrie. The new structure is sheathed in polished blue steel, etched with shadowy portraits of playwrights and prominent figures in the history of the theater.

The interior has a stark geometric quality made warm with lighting and texture. Clean lines and open spaces are marked with islands of seating, each in its own pool of muted light. Every public level (of five) has some physical/visual connection to another level.

I took the incredibly long escalator up to Level Four to the structure variously labeled the "Bridge to Nowhere" and "Endless Bridge." Either way, way cool. The floor is cantilevered in a tunnel marked with small irregular windows designed to frame their particular views as you position yourself to see properly. Mirrors reflect the image from certain viewpoints. The end of the bridge is an open-air observation area with a concrete bleacher section poised to overlook the Mississippi River. At night, the view is just beautiful: the Stone Arch Bridge over the river, backed with a modern bridge and the remnants of the industrial district left and right.

The Level Five Cafe is linear with spot lighting and fully mirrored walls. Ghostly portraits of actors from productions in the old theater are spotlighted in the mirrors. A suggestion of detail becomes visible only upon deeper inspection, a feast for the eyes if you look with intent. The large open dining room is made intimate with lighting.

After dinner I found my way to the gloriously red Proscenium Theatre to watch "Shadowlands." I know the story and I was eager to see it onstage. Sadly, the pacing was glacial and I could  not make it through the first act without literally falling asleep. I've never done that before in my life. Granted, I was tired, but please. I was excited to see this play. Shame on them for turning a great story into a lullabye.

I left at intermission and went to ground level via that long escalator. A short cab ride to my hotel left me to entertain dreams about where the upcoming conference would take me. But you already know about that. A visit to the Guthrie—with a better play—is the first thing you must schedule on your trip to Minneapolis. Forget the Mall of America, where you will only see every store already ensconced in the mall next door to you. There is nothing else in the world like the Guthrie Theater.

All photos except escalator courtesy of


Christopher said...

Yes! Isn't it absolutely amazing? Sorry the play stunk though. Luckily they switch their shows around frequently enough that next time you'll have a whole new host of options! :-)

Java said...

The place looks gorgeous!

somewhere joe said...

You had me at 'polished blue steel.' It reminds me of Givency's Blue Label bottle.

Great architecture is good for the soul. I could linger, soaking up the ambience all day...

Jess said...

Thank you for taking us along on the trip. What a neat looking theater (even if the show was a yawner)!

Tater said...

I love the Guthrie! It is quite breathtaking. I also love the Fine Line, and have seen some great musicians play there. Hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Birdie. I would also just like to say thank you. You know why.