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Bravo to Rohan Preston and the Variety section for the feature on the Guthrie Theater's illustrious 60 years ("Grand Ole Guthrie," April 30). But there was one glaring omission in that history: how architect Ralph Rapson's design for the 1963 Guthrie Theater contributed to its success — and the dramatic story of how it came to be.

Unlike the current building, whose "starchitect," Frenchman Jean Nouvel, was chosen after an international search, the 1963 building was designed by one of Minnesota's own — Ralph Rapson, a modernist star of his own time who came to Minnesota in 1954 after a meteoric national and international career to head the University of Minnesota's School of Architecture.

Rapson's choice did not impress Tyrone Guthrie, whose towering ego matched his 6'8" height. But Rapson had already been developing plans for an auditorium for the Walker Art Center, the site chosen for the new theater. "Young man, I want you to know that you would not have been my choice to do this building," Guthrie announced as he met Rapson at the Algonquin Hotel in New York, where he held forth with his colleagues.

It was but the beginning of a famously rocky relationship. (After one meeting, Rapson drew Guthrie as "Sir Tyrant" with devil's horns.)

Guthrie, of course, championed the thrust stage, which was a signature at his Stratford, Ontario, playhouse. But it was Rapson who suggested the asymmetrical angles to the Guthrie's thrust stage that gave it a unique look.

And it was Rapson who developed the revolutionary asymmetrical seating that gave the playhouse such a dynamic feel. (Think about the staid symmetry of most theater seating.) He also came up with the "alpine slope," which combined the upper and lower seating, to solve the problem of balcony seating seeming to be second class. (Guthrie sought intimacy between the actors and audience, and no seat in the hall was more than 45 feet away from the stage.)

And Rapson developed the acoustical "clouds" that hid the ceiling catwalks and equipment while adding to the Modernist aesthetic.

It also was Rapson who defied Guthrie's orders that the seats be earth-colored, so as not to distract from the stagecraft. Rapson preferred a "confetti" look of 10 colors randomly mixed so the stage house felt vibrant as audience members entered — and he ordered them despite Guthrie's veto. The colored seats arrived three days before opening, so Guthrie couldn't send them back. His wrath was Shakespearean. Anyone who walked into that theater could agree that Rapson was right.

Then there was the design of the exterior. Rapson's numerous designs didn't meet Guthrie's expectations but Guthrie couldn't explain to Rapson what he wanted. "You keep drawing and I'll tell you when you've got it right," Guthrie said.

And did he get it right. In a marvelous metaphor for the theater, an irregularly patterned screen wall acting like a mask concealed and allowed views into the glass-walled lobby. As theatergoers approached the building, they saw the crowd of people already inside in the white-walled, light-filled lobby, heightening their anticipation of joining the collective act of watching a play.

Rapson's theater design received rave reviews from around the country. Ultimately more important was its impact on the success of the Guthrie Theater. It is of course immeasurable. But who can dispute that the joy of going to the building and the excitement of entering the playhouse contributed to the immense popularity of the Guthrie Theater, the nation's first regional repertory theater.

Rapson's Guthrie suffered its own dramatic blows. Design cutbacks before construction impaired the operations of the backstage space. The cheap alternative chosen to construct the screen wall meant that it did not survive. And ultimately, the theater company's aspirations for more workable space and a larger presence led it to move to its new landmark theater on the Minneapolis riverfront.

The 1963 Guthrie Theater was demolished starting over the holiday season in 2006, when Ralph Rapson was 92. (He lived to 93, always saying he wanted to be carried out of his office on his drawing board.)

As we celebrate the Guthrie's 60 years, let us shed one tear for the innovative playhouse that helped launch its early successes. And for the architect who created it.

Linda Mack was the architecture columnist and reporter for the Star Tribune from 1987 to 2007.