Kathleen Turner, the smoky-voiced actor of “Body Heat” fame, will do a solo show in her Guthrie Theater debut. “In the Heights,” the breakout musical of “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, will get a summer staging by choreographer Maija Garcia. And former Guthrie leader Joe Dowling will have an artistic return.
This is all part of the Guthrie’s 2020-21 mainstage schedule unveiled Wednesday. The 11-show roster includes the theater’s first production of Lorraine Hansberry’s final work, “Les Blancs,” plus the previously announced revival of Shakespeare’s history plays.
The season announcement comes at a time when people are on edge as the world confronts a pandemic and the stock market gyrates. The shows offer comfort and challenge even as they entertain, inspire and provoke, artistic director Joseph Haj said.
“They’re all your children, but in terms of scale and scope, this season is the most ambitious season that the Guthrie has had under my tenure,” Haj said. “There are things that satisfy in an entirely uncomplicated way, which is a good use of the theater in these trying times. Then you have the rigor, demand and beauty of the Shakespeare rep and ‘Les Blancs.’ ”
Dowling, who ran the theater for 20 years and rebuilt it as a blue monument on the Mississippi riverfront, kicks off the season with a revival of “Private Lives,” Noël Coward’s tempestuous 1930 comedy of manners. “Lives” orbits a divorced couple who still have feelings for each other. Veanne Cox and Stephen Pelinski headlined Peter Rothstein’s 2007 Guthrie production. No casting has been announced (Sept. 12-Oct. 24).
Turner headlines “Red Hot Patriot,” the play by identical twins Margaret Engel and Allison Engel about sharp-witted newspaper writer and political observer Molly Ivins. Turner originated the role in 2010 in Philadelphia under the direction of Minnesota-bred David Esbjornson, who stages it at the Guthrie (Sept. 26-Nov. 8).
Dominique Serrand, who directed a production of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince” at Theatre de la Jeune in 2005, revives the fairy tale for the Guthrie (Nov. 21-Jan. 3, 2021). “Prince” runs as a companion piece to the Guthrie’s 46th annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” staged again by Lauren Keating (Nov. 8-Dec. 27).
For the first time in years, the Guthrie will have a mystery on its season. Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” adapted by Ken Ludwig, will be staged by Marti Lyons (Jan. 16-March 7, 2021).
The witty, sincere advice of celebrated Minnesota-reared writer Cheryl Strayed will be vented on the stage in “Tiny Beautiful Things,” an adaptation of her book. A director will be announced later (Feb. 13-March 21, 2021).
Haj helms the three-part theatrical event “A Brittle Glory — the History Cycle of William Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V” with associate director Lavina Jadhwani. It’s rare for theaters to take such an epic approach to Shakespeare’s history plays, and it was last done by the Guthrie 30 years ago (March 27-May 29, 2021).
“Les Blancs,” which premiered in 1970, found Hansberry in conversation with Jean Genet (“The Blacks”). Her drama, to be mounted by noted South African director Yaël Farber, focuses on a group of settlers in the waning days of African colonialism (May 8-June 6, 2021).
Choreographer Garcia teamed up with Haj on their electric production of “West Side Story” in summer 2018. She directs “In the Heights,” which has a book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Quiara Alegría Hudes, and tells the story of the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan (June 26-Aug. 29, 2021).
The Guthrie wraps up its season with Larissa FastHorse’s satire “The Thanksgiving Play,” which sends up liberal allies with blind spots. Guthrie associate artistic director Jeffrey Meanza directs (July 24-Aug. 22, 2021).
Ticket packages, $90-$648, go on sale June 20. Single tickets go on sale later. 612-225-6238 or guthrietheater.org.