“Guys and Dolls” was not just a knockout onstage at the Guthrie Theater last summer. Director Kent Gash’s snazzy and inclusive update of the Frank Loesser warhorse helped the company see green.
The Guthrie reported a surplus of $23,984 on a $27.8 million budget at its annual meeting Monday. It ended in the black on a budget that is smaller than last year’s $29 million because the theater offered fewer shows and performances this year as compared with last year — 29 vs. 30 shows, and 528 performances compared with 608.
Attendance, revenue and expenses all reflected that tweak in programming.
“It’s been a successful year for us both artistically and financially,” Guthrie director Joseph Haj said. “We made a big, robust season that was diverse in so many ways.”
Haj, now in his fifth season, credited “the professionalism and excellence of the Guthrie staff” with the theater’s success, given that the company was filling key positions after senior members of its all-star leadership team were poached by other organizations.
Now 56 years old and 13 years after moving into its riverfront complex, the Guthrie reported a total attendance of 353,392 vs. 395,236 the year before. The theater had $13.2 million in ticket sales, down from $14.9 million. Total revenue was $15.7 million compared with $17.9 million. The $2.3 million draw from investments was roughly the same as last year.
The theater’s endowment stands at $53 million, down from $55 million the previous year. For comparison, the S&P 500 index was virtually flat during the theater’s fiscal year, which runs Sept. 1 to Aug. 31.
“There’s nothing atypical about our draw from the endowment this year,” Haj said.
Bucking a national trend that has seen regional theaters hemorrhage patrons who buy multishow ticket packages, the Guthrie saw an increase in subscribers — 17,922 from 17,481. The total number of donors also ticked up to 6,591, an 8% increase from 6,080 the previous year. Total contributions rose to $9.9 million from $9.3 million.
The theater played to an average capacity of 83%. The best-attended shows were director Lauren Keating’s smart and resonant production of “A Christmas Carol” (98%), “Guys and Dolls” (97%), which featured a memorable performance by Kirsten Wyatt as Miss Adelaide, and the world premiere of “Floyd’s” (96%), the newest work from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage. Staged by Nottage’s longtime collaborator Kate Whoriskey, “Floyd’s” was extended by a week.
Other memorable Guthrie shows included Haj’s own adaptation of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” headlined by Jay O. Sanders, and “Metamorphoses,” director Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of Roman myths that was presented in an azure pool on the Guthrie stage.
The Guthrie also had a few notable firsts. Six of the nine directors of its mainstage shows were female, a record. The theater also had a “relaxed” performance of “A Christmas Carol” that tamped down the noise and pyrotechnics that might be too much for sensitive patrons. And the Guthrie hosted shows that drew a plethora of new audience members.
“We’ve worked hard to position the Guthrie as a community asset,” Haj said. “People are subscribing because they know the theater belongs to them.”