Guthrie ends 2012 in the black

  • Article by: ROHAN PRESTON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 17, 2012 - 7:46 PM

The flagship theater reported a tiny surplus on its $28.9 million budget.

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Jesse J. Perez, Florindo, left, and Chivas Michael, Slivio, on stage at the Guthrie in Carlo Goldoni's "Servant of Two Masters."

Photo: Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

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The Guthrie Theater ended its fiscal year with a whisker-thin surplus of $67,395 on a budget of $28.9 million, the theater reported at its annual meeting Monday.

Figures for the Guthrie's 2012 fiscal year, which ended Aug. 30, reveal that Minnesota's flagship theater company remained stable or grew incrementally at a time when arts groups continue to struggle.

Total attendance, which includes tickets to shows and workshops, was 425,932 -- up from 421,982 last year. The Guthrie has 20,822 subscribers, up by 322 from the previous year. Its $42 million endowment remains unchanged.

"I believe strongly that with almost half a million people coming to the Guthrie, we're speaking to a wide swath of local and national audiences," said Guthrie director Joe Dowling. "The other thing to note is the extraordinary generosity of the community in terms of donors to our annual fund and support from the Legacy Amendment."

The theater got 45 percent of its income from performances and 31 percent from contributions, as opposed to 50 percent and 32 percent the previous year. The remainder of its 2012 income came from costume rentals and other activities (17 percent) and from its endowment draw (7 percent).

The Guthrie began the season with Dowling's production of "Much Ado About Nothing" and Marcela Lorca's staging of "The Burial at Thebes." The Guthrie season closed with Gary Gisselman's production of "The Sunshine Boys," Neil Simon's vaudeville-themed romp that starred Raye Birk, Peter Michael Goetz and Greta Oglesby.

The theater played to 73 percent of capacity, down slightly from 75 percent the previous year. The bestselling shows were "Roman Holiday" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," officials report.

The season also included Tracie Bennett's channeling of Judy Garland in "End of the Rainbow." The show later opened on Broadway, and Bennett received a Tony nomination for her fiery turn. She won an Ivey Award in the Twin Cities.

For many years, the Guthrie had the largest operating budget of nonprofit theaters outside of New York. At least two regional theater companies now have bigger budgets. In the 2010-11 season, Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage had an operating budget of $29.5 million compared with the Guthrie's $26.2 million for the same period. During that same time frame, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival had an annual budget of $30 million. There is an asterisk on that figure, however; OSF had a $2 million shortfall.

The Guthrie will not run deficits, said Dowling.

"In 17 years, we've had one, and that was for the 2008-2009 fiscal year when the bottom fell out of the economy," he said. "It's our solemn duty to remain fiscally sound while also finding work that's challenging and interesting enough to keep people coming to the Guthrie."

Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390

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