During his unprecented 20 years at the Guthrie, Joe Dowling directed more than 50 shows — more than any previous artistic director. Here are highlights of Dowling’s work and other memorable productions through the years.
Dowling launches his Guthrie career with a splashy reimagining of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He would return to Shakespeare’s frothy comedy two more times.
“Philadelphia, Here I Come!” is the first of five plays by Brian Friel that Dowling will stage at the Guthrie. The company includes brothers Lee Mark and Kris Nelson, who become Guthrie mainstays. Dowling later stars in Friel’s “Faith Healer.”
Keith Glover’s “Thunder Knocking on the Door,” directed by Marion McClinton, marks a departure from Dowling’s predecessor Garland Wright, who rarely produced or collaborated with artists or theaters of color. Dowling will go on to work with Penumbra, Carlyle Brown & Company and Pillsbury House Theatre, among others.
Dowling brings in a new crop of directors, including David Esbjornson, who makes his debut with a gorgeously poetic production of Tennessee Williams’ classic “Summer and Smoke,” headlined by Laila Robins.
Associate artistic director John Miller-Stephany stages a haunting production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” at the old Guthrie Lab, the first of 16 shows — mostly summer musicals — that Miller-Stephany will direct under Dowling.
Created by the team of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, “Martin Guerre” could have been the next “Les Misérables.” Alas, despite the backing of uber-producer Cameron Mackintosh and a sold-out premiere in Minneapolis, it never sees Broadway.
Mercedes Ruehl and Patrick Stewart bring the acerbic warring drunks in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” to lugubrious, vivid life under director Esbjornson.
“Six Degrees of Separation,” John Guare’s play of deception and beauty, gets a sublime production by Dowling protégé Ethan McSweeny, who stages nine shows at the Guthrie.
Dowling brings to the Guthrie legendary playwright Arthur Miller, who writes “Resurrection Blues,” his penultimate play. Dowling would produce Miller seven times, more than any other playwright other than Shakespeare.
He directs a bright, sprightly production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.”
He takes Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” starring Peter Michael Goetz, to the Dublin Theatre Festival, the first European tour of a Guthrie show.
Lisa Peterson, one of notably few women directors he invited to the Guthrie, stages Ellen McLaughlin’s adaptation of “Oedipus,” with Peter Macon as the disturbed king.
Angela Bassett and her husband, Courtney Vance, bring star power to the Dowling-directed “His Girl Friday,” adapted by John Guare from “The Front Page.”
Max Stafford-Clarke’s promenade-style “Macbeth” has a riveting run at the former Guthrie Lab under the banner of its WorldStage series. The theater would also bring in “DruidSynge” and “The Great Game,” among its international offerings.
“Hamlet,” which opened the Guthrie in 1963, also closes the original theater. Santino Fontana, who was in the first class of the Guthrie/University of Minnesota BFA program, headlines as the conflicted prince.
Nodding to Twin Cities literary history, the opening season in the $125 million big blue box includes Simon Levy’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” The Guthrie also for the first time produces a play by Neil Simon, “Lost in Yonkers.”
Tony winner Mark Rylance holds forth as the itinerant storyteller in Robert Bly’s poetic adaptation of Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt.” Rylance, who first came to the Guthrie in an “original practices” production of “Twelfth Night,” would return to adapt Louis Jenkins’ poetry into “Nice Fish” in 2013.
Melissa Gilbert headlines a sold-out run of the musical adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie,” although the show does not make it to Broadway.
“Caroline, or Change,” a musical written by Tony Kushner with composer Jeanine Tesori, anchors the Guthrie’s first festival devoted to a single playwright. Director Marcela Lorca stages a sublime production headlined by Greta Oglesby.
“The Scottsboro Boys,” Kander and Ebb’s last musical, has its premiere in Minneapolis, selling out and introducing spectacular talent to the McGuire proscenium stage. It goes on to a short-lived run on Broadway.
The premiere of “The Master Butchers’ Singing Club,” adapted from Louise Erdrich’s novel by Marsha Norman, does not fare well.
The Guthrie’s second playwright-centered festival champions Christopher Hampton, best known as a translator of plays by Yasmina Reza. But “Tales From Hollywood,” “Appomattox” and “Embers” do not live up to the success of the Kushner festival, artistically or at the box office.
Minneapolis-reared Vincent Kartheiser of “Mad Men” fame stars as uptight, lovelorn Mr. Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice,” a summer hit.
Dowling draws crowds with his smart production of the classic musical “My Fair Lady.”