The makeup of the 2012-13 Guthrie Theater season has stirred ongoing discussion among artists and patrons. Nearly three dozen readers commented on our story in which director Joe Dowling defended the theater's choices against critics who said the season lacked diversity -- specifically in regards to women and artists of color. Here is a sampling:
"Patrons of the theater can certainly judge a play for what it is, regardless of who wrote it, regardless of who directs it. For example: Shakespeare."
"The purpose of the Guthrie is to entertain and fill the seats ... not to cater to those who focus on racism and sexism at every turn ... even when there isn't any!!!
"Some people spend their entire lives creating problems that do not even exist in the real world. ... It exists only in their shallow minds!!!!"
"I hope we don't ever get to a place where the Guthrie is selecting a play or choosing a director simply because they are a specific gender, race or creed ... it would be a damn shame to have such a decision made for anything other than artistic merit."
"It would be nice if the Guthrie would produce more than one show per year people want to see. 'A Christmas Carol' draws crowds and the rest of the year the theaters are half empty. Our church received a group of free tickets to fill seats and we were most of the audience at the three performances we attended at no cost. That has to be more embarrassing than meeting minority quotas. But then, where is the diversity? They seem to overlook many common-sense operational concerns that will certainly lead to their demise soon."
"The problem isn't necessarily the lack of diversity off stage, it's the lack of the diversity in the stories being told (though the two likely go hand in hand). Despite some really bold shows in recent years ('Scottsboro Boys,' 'Great Game/Afghanistan,' 'Nine Parts of Desire'), too often the Guthrie lacks artistic or cultural daring and sticks with the old conservative guard. They are desperate to get globally minded and young patrons into seats, but how many of us want to see yet another dry, Euro-centric tragicomedy? No wonder people are heading to the 'diversity' theaters. The Guthrie is going to need to evolve as quickly as its target audience in order to pay that expensive rent 10 years from now."
"After holding season tickets to the Guthrie for several years in the '90s, I rarely go there anymore because of the lack of diversity/variety in their calendar. We are blessed with a very eclectic theater community here in the Twin Cities, so I gladly support those groups that do present a more diverse selection than the Guthrie. It's just unfortunate that the Guthrie is the biggest and best-known theater here. They get the money, the press and the audiences but there's a lot more available to the theater-going public. Check out Penumbra (African American), Theatre Unbound (Women), Mixed Blood, Workhaus, Ten Thousand Things or any of the dozens of other companies if you want something different."
"How much did the state subsidize the Guthrie? There needs to be diversity at the Guthrie just as there is in the Fire Dept. or Police Dept. If it really is about the best plays being performed, then why wouldn't we want the best firefighters and policemen regardless of race?"
"The very assumption that producing plays by women or minorities would be 'tokenism' or lacking in quality is insulting and ignorant to say the least. This notion that white men are somehow able to create complex stories that speak to humanity while women and minorities are not perfectly illustrates the great need for theater that shatters our deeply rooted prejudices."
"Wow, the assumption that the Guthrie hires only the cream of the local talent is as provincial and short-sighted as most of these comments. There are directors of color who reside in the Twin Cities that have been nominated for Tony awards ... and who work in the major regional theaters, but not in their hometown. There are actors who play leads in those same theaters also on and off-Broadway. Nationally the reputation of the productions at the Guthrie is ridiculed as uninspired and blatant attempts to cater to the need to pay the note on the building. What was started by Sir Tyrone as a world-class theatrical venue is now driven by mediocrity and crass commercialism."
"I think the Guthrie should program what it wants to and hire who it wants to, just like any business. But they should keep an eye on the community they serve if they hope to remain vital. I give them major props for consistently co-producing with Penumbra and Theatre Mu. And we can't change history, and the fact is there were only a handful of female playwrights before the 20th century. What bothers me most about the upcoming season is the inclusion of the Propeller Theatre company in residence. First of all, why present foreign actors when we have so much local talent? And then (here is where I feel female theater talent truly has a complaint) why bring in an all-male company, thus depriving women of some all-too-rare Shakespearean roles?"