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Guthrie’s 2020-21 season; arts organizations announce cancellations, changes

The Guthrie’s next season is filled with famous names: Noël Coward, Agatha Christie, Cheryl Strayed, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lorraine Hansberry and Shakespeare.

Kathleen Turner
In September, Kathleen Turner will bring “Red Hot Patriot” to the Guthrie, where it will be the first play of the 2020-21 season on the McGuire Proscenium Stage.
REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

In 2018, the actress Kathleen Turner told Vulture, “The roles for a mature women onstage are a thousand times better than anything written in film.” For example, the one-woman play “Red Hot Patriot,” by twin sister playwrights Margaret Engel and Allison Engel, where the main and only character is the late, great journalist Molly Ivins.

Turner, an Oscar nominee and two-time Golden Globe winner, was Ivins in the play’s 2010 debut at the Philadelphia Theater Company. She reprised the role in Washington, D.C.; Berkeley and New York City, to name a few. In September, she’ll bring it to the Guthrie, where “Red Hot Patriot” will be the first play of the 2020-21 season on the McGuire Proscenium Stage.

Announced earlier this week, the Guthrie’s next season is filled with famous names: Noël Coward, Agatha Christie, Cheryl Strayed, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lorraine Hansberry, Shakespeare. And Joe Dowling, who will ring a bell with most Twin Cities theatergoers. Dowling was the Guthrie’s artistic director for 20 years, the predecessor to current Artistic Director Joseph Haj and the leader who left us the landmark blue-glass-and-steel Guthrie we know today.

Here’s the lineup for the mainstage schedule, which includes both the proscenium and the Wurtele Thrust stages. The 2020-21 Dowling Studio season will be announced at a later date.

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Sept. 12-Oct. 24 on the thrust stage: Noël Coward’s “Private Lives.” Dowling will direct this classic comedy about former spouses who end up vacationing (with their new spouses) at the same hotel, a hit since it was first staged in 1930.

Sept. 26-Nov. 8 on the proscenium stage: Margaret Engel and Allison Engel’s “Red Hot Patriot.” Wilmar native David Esbjornson will direct, as he has every production of this play with Kathleen Turner.

Nov. 21-Jan. 3, 2021, on the proscenium stage: Rick Cummins and John Scoullar’s “The Little Prince.” Dominique Serrand will direct this musical version of the family-friendly play based on the beloved fable by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Serrand is no stranger to “The Little Prince”; he directed it at Theatre de la Jeune Lune in 2005.

Jan. 16-March 7, 2021 on the thrust stage: Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.” Does this signal a possible new direction for the Guthrie, which generally doesn’t do mysteries? Marti Lyons will direct Ken Ludwig’s adaptation of one of Christie’s most famous novels. This will mark the Queen of Crime’s first appearance at the Guthrie.

Feb. 13-March 31, 2021 on the proscenium stage: “Tiny Beautiful Things,” based on the book by Minnesota-raised Cheryl Strayed, adapted by Nia Vardalos. “Tiny Beautiful Things” is a book of advice columns Strayed penned as “Dear Sugar”; Vardalos wrote and starred in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” A director will be announced later.

March 27-May 29 on the thrust stage: “A Brittle Glory: Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V.” Previously announced, now broadly titled “A Brittle Glory,” this monumental event will bring three Shakespeare history plays (actually four; “Henry IV” has two parts) to the Guthrie’s big stage, something we haven’t seen here since 1990. Nothing in the next season (at least, nothing we’ve heard about so far) will come close in terms of scope, ambition and sheer size.

May 8-June 6, 2021 on the proscenium stage: “Les Blancs” by Lorraine Hansberry, final text adapted by Robert Nemiroff. Hansberry was the first black playwright to pen a Broadway play (“Raisin in the Sun”) and the first to win a New York Critics’ Circle Award. “Les Blancs,” a story of race and revolution, was her final play, left unfinished at the time of her death. Nemiroff was her ex-husband and her literary executor; he also wrote “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” Yaël Farber will direct.

June 26-Aug. 29, 2021 on the thrust stage: “In the Heights.” Before “Hamilton” made him a household name, Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music and lyrics for another Tony winner. Set in the Latinx neighborhood of Manhattan’s Washington Heights, with a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes, the Guthrie’s big summer musical will feature a vibrant score of hip-hop, salsa, merengue and soul. Maija García, who choreographed the Guthrie’s “West Side Story” in 2018, will direct.

July 24-Aug. 22, 2021 on the proscenium stage: “The Thanksgiving Play” by Larissa FastHorse. Three “woke” teachers decide to stage a Thanksgiving play. What could possibly go wrong? This wickedly funny satire will be directed by Jeff Meanza, the Guthrie’s associate artistic director. The Guthrie has an ongoing collaboration with FastHorse (Sicangu Lakota) and Ty Defoe (Haudenosaunee, Six Nations/Anishinaabe Nation) of Indigenous Direction, a consulting firm for companies and artists who want to create accurate work about, for and with indigenous peoples.

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While not part of the mainstage subscription season, the Guthrie’s “A Christmas Carol” has been a holiday mainstay since 1975. Lauren Keating will direct Crispin Whittell’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless tale, set for Nov. 8-Dec. 27 on the thrust stage.

Season subscriptions go on sale June 2. Single tickets will be available later this year and early next year.

Changes and cancellations in response to COVID-19

The Minnesota Orchestra has canceled all concerts through March 23. Tonight’s concert (Friday, March 13) will be performed for radio broadcast only. Led by conductor Juanjo Mena and featuring piano soloist Kirill Gerstein, with a program of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto and Shostkovich’s Seventh Symphony, the performance will be held at Orchestra Hall without a live audience. Tune in to stations of Classical MPR or stream beginning at 8 p.m. CDT.

The Minneapolis Institute of Art has canceled all events, activities and tours through March 26. They have closed the Family Center, removed touch screens and suspended the Art Carts program to minimize shared contact.

The Walker Art Center announced on Thursday evening, “In response to growing concerns around COVID-19, the Walker is canceling all on-site public events, lectures, performances, and screenings from March 13–April 15.” It had already canceled the Insights Design lecture scheduled for Tuesday, March 17, with designer Hassan Rahim. The first lecture in the series, set for Tuesday, March 10, with Daniel DeSure, was also canceled. Questions: Call 612-375-7600, check the Walker website, or email

Every Sunday at the Aster Café from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Patty and the Buttons hosts a Sunday brunch social dance. This Sunday, the performance will stream live from the Aster over YouTube. The band is asking for a $10 “cover charge” to go to the musicians, who depend on music as their sole source of income. PayPal to If you want, you can still go to the Aster to watch and listen, but social dancing is discouraged. FMI.

The Loft announced Thursday that starting Monday, March 16, all Loft classes will either be moved online or canceled. All adult in-person classes will move to virtual spaces; all spring youth classes are canceled. FMI. The second annual Wordplay Festival will shift to a virtual event to be held throughout April and May 2020. Several other major book festivals across the country are collaborating to produce the virtual celebration, which will include live video conversations, podcasts, visual arts, author Q&As, playlists, social media takeovers and other creative content.

Originally scheduled for next Thursday, March 19, the annual Arts Advocacy Day – when friends of the arts gather at the State Capitol to thank legislators who support arts funding, nudge those who don’t and celebrate the arts in our state – has been changed to Virtual Arts Advocacy Day. Sheila Smith, executive director of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, said in a release on Thursday, “Although the Minnesota Department of Health has not as of this moment recommended canceling events, out of an abundance of caution and after many thoughtful conversations, we have decided to cancel our day on the hill.” Take five minutes and thank legislators for arts funding – and for the increase in state arts funding they passed in the 2019 legislative session.

The Chopin Society has canceled its March 29 concert at Macalester College with Hungarian pianist Dénes Várjon. This would have been the final concert of the society’s 2019-20 season. Information about the 2020-21 season will be available in a few weeks. Questions? Call 612-822-0123 or email