Guthrie reports balanced budget in difficult times

Guthrie Artistic Director Joe Dowling is typically blunt, even in the face of good news.

“Any one running a theater these days that doesn’t feel concern about the economy is living in Cloud Cuckoo Land” he said today as the Guthrie reported a balanced budget for the 2011-2012 season at its annual meeting.

joedowling.jpgThe numbers are these: the Guthrie has a $67,000 surplus on a budget of $29,000,000.

A total of 42 productions generated 795 performances which drew a total attendance of 426,000.

Those are big numbers, and represent a 10 percent increase in the Guthrie’s budget over the previous year.

“I won’t pretend it hasn’t been a difficult year,” Dowling (above) said. “It has. It has been a very difficult year. A difficult year for everyone involved in the arts, and indeed in the community generally.”

However Dowling credits the balanced budget to a number of factors, not least the generosity of donors, and the support of the state’s Arts and Cultural Heritage fund.

He also believes the Guthrie has found a good balance between the productions which will draw large audiences with the artistically important work. He points to the Marcela Lorca directed production of Seamus Heaney’s “Burial at Thebes” being in the same season as the summer hit “Roman Holiday.”

“So within the one season you have two very extraordinary pieces of theater,” Dowling said. “It’s keeping that kind of balance alive and making certain that we have an appeal for all of our broad audience, that’s the big concern for the future.”

Dowling says that, even now, six years after opening the three theater complex on the edge of downtown Minneapolis, the Guthrie is still exploring the possibilities of the new building.

When asked to name his high points from the season, he say’s it’s difficult to choose just one. he eventually points to the Heaney play, but also Tracie Bennett’s portrayal of Judy Garland in “End of the Rainbow.”

“Those are the sort of moments in the theater when you sort of really do feel your are in the presence of something extraordinary,” he said.

(Joe Dowling image courtesy of the Guthrie)