The Guthrie Theater has slashed 60% of the budget for its upcoming season and 67% of the plays — six of the nine planned productions, including its annual cash cow, "A Christmas Carol."
As a result of a COVID-19-altered landscape, the Minneapolis theater's board met Friday evening to approve a $12.6 million budget, replacing the $31 million approved in March. Instead of the nine shows that were to begin in September, now planned is a three-show season that will run from March to August, with all plays on the Guthrie's largest, thrust stage. In a letter to staff, artistic director Joseph Haj mentioned furloughs and permanent job cuts to be announced this week and said the three-show season could be increased if it becomes safe for audiences and artists to gather sooner.
The new plan is to produce Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Sweat," which had been scheduled to conclude the 2019-20 season this summer but was not in the 2020-21 season announced in March, as well as the comedy "Private Lives," originally scheduled for this September. The third play has not yet been planned.
Shows that had previously been announced for the season included Kathleen Turner in "Red Hot Patriot" and an ambitious cycle of three history plays by William Shakespeare.
If all goes as now planned, Minneapolis' eminent regional theater will have been closed nearly a year, since its productions of "Twelfth Night" and "The Bacchae" were shut down March 13 and the remainder of the season canceled.
Haj's letter noted that his staff attempted to put together a $25 million season that would push all nine of the planned productions later in the calendar but determined "we were putting the organization at great risk, in both the short and long term, of running out of the funds necessary to maintain operations should we have to postpone or cancel multiple productions in the fall or early winter."
As a result, the Guthrie will perform the briefest season in its nearly 60-year history. In his letter, Haj — who posted an emotional video message Thursday addressing the vast difficulties theaters are now facing — noted that the Guthrie opened in 1963 with a four-show season, "and from those four shows we grew. We will grow again and we will thrive again."
Chris Hewitt • 612-673-4367