I believe there is a renaissance going on right now in
Minneapolis," says Steve Richardson, producing director of one of
the leading theater companies here. Many other theater artists and
critics agree, seeing a new energetic burst in the performing arts.
One reason: "There is a great spirit of collaboration" between
arts organizations, Mr. Richardson says.
He mentions a joint project by his company, Thtre de la Jeune
Lune; the Guthrie, the major regional theater company here; and the
Walker Art Center as an example. His company is also collaborating
with The Children's Theatre Company to produce "Gulliver's Travels."
This cross-fertilization pays off in dynamic new works. "There is
a whole new audience springing up," he says. "Our theory is: The
more people going to the theater, the better."
Another reason for the lively theater scene in the Twin Cities of
Minneapolis and St. Paul: When artists can't find work in resident
companies, they start new ones. One such example is the Hidden
Theatre Company, which manages to provide modest incomes for its
actors and crew.
Of course, Twin Cities theater companies still have to deliver
good productions to survive. And they're doing that. Take the Jungle
Theater's production of "Lobster Alice," by Minneapolis playwright
Kira Oblensky. So fresh, bright, and irresistible is this play,
based on Salvador Dali's six-week stint in Hollywood, that it earned
a spot at Playwrights' Horizons, a theater company in New York,
early next year.
"Our audience is so diverse," says Bain Behlke, artistic director
of the Jungle Theatre. "Of course, Minneapolis has an unusual
theater history. In the 1960s, the Guthrie came in, heralding an
unprecedented expansion in the arts. There were four theaters in
Minneapolis before 1962, and by 1972, there were more than 100.
(That number is unchanged today.)
"So there were and are so many styles of theater going on, from
classical to modern to deconstructionist efforts of contemporary
theater. This audience is really very sophisticated."
The Guthrie is dedicated to the classics. But with Joe Dowling,
appointed artistic director in 1995, there is an emphasis on new
play development, too. The American premire of the operetta "Martin
Guerre" is an exciting, polished production right now (see " 'Martin
Guerre' travels to US theaters," Oct. 8).
Asked about the viability of the theater, he says, "They talk
about the theater as the fabulous invalid - as if it is always
'dying' - but across the country attendance has doubled."
Dowling points out that pundits today are referring to William
Shakespeare as "the man of the millennium." The need for live
theater will go on, he says, because it represents a kind of
communion between the performers and the audience.
The Guthrie is in no danger of irrelevance: The people of the
Twin Cities revere it. Dowling's plans are expansive - he expects to
build a three-theater complex so the Guthrie will be able to return
to a three-play repertory style without the expense of striking sets
The Guthrie's counterpart is The Children's Theatre Company (CTC)
- a progressive, inventive, and enchanting place where the great
works of children's literature, as well as new plays by some of
America's best playwrights, delightfully come to life.
Its current production, "A Village Fable," by James Still, is
based on a novel by John Gardner. It aims at older children, dealing
with issues of racism, intolerance, and other forms of prejudice
with great wit and skill. But the heartfelt story is no simple moral