These top Hollywood actors have performed at the Guthrie Theater

Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman and Patrick Stewart are among the many top actors who have performed at the Guthrie.

Before being cast as Dwight Schrute in “The Office,” Rainn Wilson, center, appeared in three Guthrie shows: “Philadelphia, Here I Come,” “Th
Before being cast as Dwight Schrute in “The Office,” Rainn Wilson, center, appeared in three Guthrie shows: “Philadelphia, Here I Come,” “The Venetian Twins” and “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

— Guthrie Theater

From Oscar winners Mark Rylance and Mahershala Ali to Tony winner Santino Fontana and Emmy-decorated Sterling K. Brown — the Guthrie Theater has been a touchstone for stars.

That has been true since its founding, when George Grizzard and Jessica Tandy headlined "Hamlet."

Some of the high-wattage names came to the theater as dreamy young actors, like Rainn Wilson in "Philadelphia, Here I Come," Kristin Chenoweth in "Babes in Arms" and Elizabeth Banks in "Summer and Smoke."

Others already had their names in lights — here's looking at you, Kelsey Grammer ("Mary Stuart"), Morgan Freeman ("The Gospel at Colonus") and Patrick Stewart ("Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?").

Laila Robins has starred in Guthrie Theater productions of "Summer and Smoke," "Antony & Cleopatra," and the world premiere of Arthur Miller "Resurrection Blues."

In all of it, the theater has had a unique attraction.

"When I tell people I'm from Minnesota, one of the first things out of my mouth is the Guthrie Theater and how proud I am of what it is and what it represents nationally," said "Homeland" star Laila Robins, who grew up in St. Paul and was inspired to become an actor after seeing Helen Carey perform in "Arms and the Man" at the Minneapolis playhouse.

Robins has headlined five shows at the Guthrie, including "Antony and Cleopatra" and "Summer and Smoke" with a then-unknown Banks. Even now, after a career of powerful performances on screen, the Guthrie holds a special place for her.

"There's something about being on that stage that exercises your whole being," said Robins. "When you get on camera, you have to pull it back. It's in the eyes and the camera comes to you. But on the stage, you have to project to that last row. It's a full-body experience that's cathartic and fulfilling."

Fontana, who played "Hamlet" at the Guthrie before making it big on Broadway, said that the Guthrie is special in ways that Minnesotans may take for granted — the theater's devotion to telling great stories, the quality of its scene and costume shops and an audience that cares about great work, not big names.

"It's a huge part of my heart," Fontana said.

In 2005, Angela Bassett starred as ace reporter Hildy Johnson in "His Girl Friday" at the Guthrie Theater.

Angela Bassett and her husband, Courtney Vance, headlined "His Girl Friday" together at the theater in 2005. Mark Rylance adapted and starred in "Nice Fish" in 2013. Ian McKellen took on "King Lear" in 2007.

In the early 1980s, James Earl Jones ("Master Harold and the Boys") and David Hyde Pierce ("The Seagull") both made memorable Guthrie appearances.

Robins put the Guthrie in the context of Minnesota's other entertainment amenities and offerings.

"I don't want to offend anyone but if you want your heart broken, be a Minnesota sports fan," said Robins. "But if you want your heart filled, go to the Guthrie."