The weekend’s big arts news came out of Big Blue, and it was a shock to many. In an email sent to all Guthrie staff early Friday evening, Artistic Director Joseph Haj announced that the Guthrie won’t reopen until March 2021, a year after it closed to COVID-19.
The budget will be $12.6 million, not the $31 million announced on March 11 for the original 2020-21 season. Only three plays will be produced: Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat,” Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” and a third TBA. All will be on the thrust stage. Layoffs will take place and positions will be eliminated as soon as this week.
So there won’t be a “Christmas Carol.” Or a “Henriad,” the highly anticipated Shakespeare marathon originally set for March 27-May 29. No Kathleen Turner as Molly Ivins. No “Murder on the Orient Express.”
On Thursday before Friday’s announcement, the Guthrie posted a four-minute message from Haj about the future of theater. It’s personal, emotional and ultimately hopeful. Haj quotes from a 2017 study claiming that “patrons’ hearts beat at the same time during a live theater performance.” He says, “I’m not worried about the theater at all in the long future. It’s been around 2,500 years. It’s essential in people’s lives. If we have to be away for a time, I think we all can survive that.”
In his email, Haj left the door open to “adding programming back into our schedule should the universe smile on us and people are able and willing to gather sooner.” He also acknowledged that “even a March 2021 opening could be optimistic.” He noted that “the Guthrie’s first season was four shows, May-September of 1953, and from those four shows we grew. We will grow again and we will thrive again.”
Theater Latté Da shifts to making new work
COVID-19 has silenced Theater Latté Da’s “La Bohème” for the duration. We won’t see the world premiere of “Twelve Angry Men” until next season. But when the Ritz reopens, a host of new musicals and plays with music will be in development. Until audiences and artists can safely gather again, Latté Da will put its energy and resources into making new work.
Which is not at all new for Latté Da. In its 23-year history, it has produced 12 world premieres and 13 area premieres. In 2015, the company launched NEXT 20/20, a commitment to develop 20 new works over a five-year period; it achieved that goal early, in 2019. An annual NEXT Festival spotlit works-in-progress, several of which went on to fully staged productions.
On Monday the theater announced the NEXT UP Laboratory, a new works initiative to be led by Artistic Director Peter Rothstein and Associate Artistic Director Elissa Adams. Several projects are planned, including the completion of Terrence McNally’s last play, “Immortal Longings,” about ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev and his love affair with dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. Rothstein worked with McNally on the play for a year and a half before the playwright’s death in March.
Also in the works: a new piece by Harrison David Rivers about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and the musical “Showboat.” A musical about the life and work of Frida Kahlo by Mexico City-based playwright Joserra Zúñiga with Rothstein and Kate Sutton-Johnson. An English-language adaptation of the opera “Gianni Schicchi” by Bradley Greenwald and Steven Epp, set in modern-day Miami. A new play with music by Rothstein and Sally Wingert about Frances Cabrini, patron saint of immigrants. And several more.
On Monday, May 18, at 7 p.m., Latté Da will host a live virtual launch event on Facebook and YouTube with more details about the new works project. FMI.
Catching up with Sheila Smith
Like all of us these days, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts’ Sheila Smith wakes up in the pre-dawn hours, worrying about a thousand things. It helps when the birds start to sing.
At least we weren’t heading into winter when the pandemic hit.
“I think it’s important for everyone to understand how all of the different pieces of the arts community are under crisis simultaneously,” Smith said on Monday. “It’s easy for people to think, ‘It’s my little corner that’s suffering the most,’ when there’s universal suffering going on. There’s not a single arts organization that’s not negatively affected by [COVID-19]. People have been laid off all over the state.
“I keep going back to the question of how many organizations have a month or two of reserves. What happens when the reserves are gone? The Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund [MDRF] is not giving money to arts organizations, even though it’s allowed. On the statewide level, they have authorized nonprofit arts organizations as potential grantees, but on the ground, it’s just not happening.
“A lot of organizations will have their end of fiscal year on June 30. When will we start hearing about the ones that are not going to make it? Because I can’t see how every organization in Minnesota is going to make it. If you can’t have live performances – as the Guthrie has determined, for example – until spring 2021, that would be a whole year where an organization would have no earned income, unless it has figured out how to earn online.
“I carry around a lot of worry about what will happen this summer. Can organizations hang in long enough for a vaccine to come out? How do we bridge between now and then? I imagine that every board is trying to figure out a plan for survival.”
Meanwhile, the Legislature is still in session and MCA is “still working on getting dates extended for state funding for the arts, so if events can’t happen by June 30 this year, grantees will be given more time to get their services to the public done.”
Smith also leads the Creative MN group, made up of statewide service organizations and state arts funding organizations. Creative Minnesota recently hosted two Town Hall meetings, one for arts and culture organizations and one for individual artists and creative workers. “We’re talking now about the disaster recovery funds,” Smith said, “trying to figure out how to make sure the little arts nonprofits that need help can get help.”
Now through May 30: Open Eye @ Home: “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Open Eye Theatre has gone into its archives and cherry-picked five full-length, family-friendly shows filled with music, puppetry, live performance and storytelling. For May, it’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” with marionettes, designed and directed by Michael Sommers, with an original score by Michel Koerner. For ages 8 and up. Register here to receive a link. Free, with donations requested.
Now at All Arts: James Earl Jones in “King Lear.” A 1974 performance filmed at Central Park’s open-air Delacorte Theater for the New York Shakespeare Festival (now Shakespeare in the Park), produced by Joseph Papp, originally seen on PBS’s “Theater in America.” With Paul Sorvino and Raul Julia. Scroll down to see what else they have on offer.
Now on the Chanhassen’s Facebook page and YouTube: CDT Variety Slam and Variety Slam Part 2. One of the last things we saw before the world took shelter was opening night of “The Music Man” at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. It was terrific. (Marian the Librarian, aka Ann Michels, we’re looking at you!) On Friday, April 17, Chanhassen presented a free 30-minute online variety show featuring recorded segments with Michael Brindisi, Michelle Barber, Nancy Nelson, Tony Vierling, Michael Gruber, Ann Michels, Matt Riehl, Cat Brindisi, David Darrow and Tod Peterson. According to the Star Tribune, 20,000 people tuned in. So the Chan returned on May 1 with Variety Slam Part 2. The stars this time were Shad Olsen and Andy Kust (Chanhassen’s music director), Serena Brook and Nick White, Jay Albright and Angela Timberman, and Broadway star and Chan alum Laura Osnes singing “In My Own Little Corner” from “Cinderella.” Both shows are tremendous fun.
Now at the Wizarding World website: Daniel Radcliffe reads the first chapter of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Yes, the actor who played Harry Potter in all eight films. Award-winning British actress Noma Dumazweni reads Chapter Two; she played grown-up Hermione Granger in the West End and Broadway productions of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” Future readers include Stephen Fry, David Beckham, Dakota Fanning and Eddie Redmayne. You can also listen on Spotify. FMI.
Friday at the American Swedish Institute’s Facebook page: Cocktails at the Castle – At Home! Since opening its 34,000-square-foot Nelson addition in 2012, the ASI has held a series of awesome parties with something happening in every corner of the Nelson, every cranny of the Castle and all over the courtyard between. Why should a virus get in the way? In fact, thought someone at ASI, why not throw an all-day party? For free? Starting at 10 a.m., ending at 7 p.m., you’ll find activities, recipes and curated playlists from DJ Jake Rudh and more. Sign up for one of two Åh Snaps! Happy Hour sessions via Zoom to learn Swedish drinking songs, share your at-home Cocktails experience and meet new people. Register here for the 3 p.m. session, here for the 5 p.m. session. FMI. There’s time between now and then to score some aquavit.