The Guthrie Theater today announced it has been awarded a $1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to underwrite a groundbreaking initiative for the theater’s entire ninth floor, home to the 200-seat Dowling Studio, the Citizens of Minnesota Overlook—a signature feature of the lobby known as the “amber box”—and a unique retractable wall that unifies the performance space with its lobby.
The six-pronged initiative, listed below, was conceptualized by artistic director Joseph Haj and emphasizes the “creation of a theater that wrestles with urgent questions and inspires dynamic dialogue with its audience, expands the diversity of voices, visions and styles on its stages, and engages community members currently underserved by its work.”
The Guthrie will implement Haj’s vision for Level Nine beginning this season, which features his first fully curated lineup as the theater’s leader.
Access and Engagement
To ensure access for all communities, the ticket price for all performances on Level Nine will be set at $9. The Guthrie will also appoint a Director of Community Engagement who will conceive, develop, implement, and oversee community-based programming to meaningfully connect the Guthrie with communities currently underserved by its work.
The Guthrie will program three to four shows during each of its next three seasons, either self-produced or presentations of work by national or international companies, and will engage members of the audience at each performance in a pre- or post-show event inspired by the work.
Physical upgrades to the Level Nine lobby will be made to better host conversations and salon-style gatherings, shifting the audience experience from mono-directional performance into a shared space for community engagement and dialogue.
New Play Development
The Guthrie will commission a major work by an accomplished playwright each year for the next three seasons, creating texts that address pressing questions about individual and societal challenges. Community members and local artists will have opportunities to engage with these new works as they evolve through participation in readings and workshops.
Devised Theater Ensembles
The Guthrie will identify and host a devised theater ensemble each year for the next three seasons. Devising ensembles start their work with no script and are some of the most dynamic and relevant companies in the field. This residency will provide salaries for the ensemble members as well as rehearsal space, administrative support, and other meaningful resources of the Guthrie.
Artistic colleagues will be invited to engage with and learn from the devised theater ensembles in residence through workshops, lectures, and observation of open rehearsals.
Local and Regional Productions
The Guthrie will identify local or regional companies to present work in the Dowling Studio. Companies will receive support from the Guthrie, and will be in residence during the rehearsal and performance period. These companies and initiatives will be chosen on the basis of their capacity to ask questions that inspire community conversation. Projects will be announced this spring.
“Happenings” in Response to Current Events
The Guthrie will offer “happenings”—periodic events that may include conversations, town hall meetings, salons, dance parties, performances, and readings—that are responsive to local and national current events and immediately relevant to the world around us.
All said, “Level Nine will be a space where history in the making is tracked.”