After 19 years as artistic director at the Guthrie Theater Joe Dowling is leaving with a splash. In his farewell season, he will both survey some of the best of his tenure, while also presenting his vision of what the Guthrie is capable of in its three-stage complex on the banks of the Mississippi.
Sitting in his office overlooking the river, Dowling talks about the three plays he’ll direct himself.
“The reason that I have chosen these plays is that they to some extent reflect what I have done at the Guthrie,” he said.
He’ll return to the first play he did as Guthrie artistic director, Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The show was later remounted as a touring production that traveled around the state.
This time Dowling promises something new. He’ll co-direct with fellow Irishman David Bolger, who has worked with several Guthrie shows over the years.
“So we’ll get a fresh look at it. It’s an eternal beauty, that play, and it’s some years since we have done it, so it is valuable.”
Then Dowling will turn to Arthur Miller’s version of the Salem Witch trials, “The Crucible.” Dowling says he’s loved the play for some time, but this will be his first effort directing the piece.
“I have not had the chance to do it before, and Arthur Miller is very important to the time I have been here,” he said. The Guthrie has done “Death of a Salesman” and “All My Sons” during Dowling’s tenure. The playwright even came to the Guthrie for “Resurrection Blues.” Dowling says he wanted to honor Miller and his contribution to American theater in his final season.
“And ‘Juno and the Paycock’ is a play that is part of my DNA,” Dowling says of the third production he’ll direct. He describes the Sean O’Casey play as one of his signature pieces. He talks about growing up with it in Ireland, mounting a number of productions of the play. He later took a production around the world, directing it on Broadway and in Edinburgh, Israel, Chicago and Washington.
Dowling is also excited about how the entire season has worked out. He stresses it’s a complex task to put a season together, and far from an exact science, depending on the availability of performers, plays, and ultimately budgets.
“But I am proud of the fact we have a number of pieces that haven’t been seen before, we have a number of writers we haven’t done before, and we are bringing in some directors who haven’t worked with us before,” he said.
“I am very excited to have Mary Zimmerman come here,” he said. “I have admired her work for a very long time.” Dowling describes the author of “White Snake,” which will open the season, as a writer who has found a way of storytelling that is unique and special.
He is also excited about presenting Sarah Ruhl’s play “Stage Kiss,” which will bring Guthrie alum Casey Stangl back from her new home in Los Angeles, where she has been making a splash for her directing work.
Then there will be the first Guthrie production of “The Music Man” in the summer of 2015. “It’s a piece of Americana, a piece of classic musical theater,” Dowling said.
When asked about the smaller productions in the Dowling Studio Theater he’s proud of, he points to “Choir Boy” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, which will be directed by Peter Rothstein. Pillsbury House theater will also present “Marcus,” the final part of the McCraney trilogy, starting with “The Brothers Size” and “In the Red and Brown Water,” pieces it has performed at the Guthrie in recent seasons.
Dowling said he is very pleased that the Dowling stage will continue to present fine productions by visiting theaters, but he’s even happier that the Guthrie will be presenting the entire slate of shows on the thrust and proscenium stages.
“I wanted in the last season to state in unequivocal terms … my vision of what those two theaters can do,” he said. “What I am trying to say is: This is the vision that we always had. This is the kind of range of work that we want to do, and here we are. And we are going to do it, and we’ll see what the consequences are in terms of box office, and we hope it’s going to be good!”
The full 2014-2015 Guthrie season rundown is below.
On the Wurtele Thrust Stage
September 13 – October 26, 2014
The Heidi Chronicles by Wendy Wasserstein
Opening Night: Friday, September 19
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, The Heidi Chronicles traces the coming of age of Heidi Holland from high school in the radical ’60s to her career as an art historian in the heartless ’80s. With wit, grace and authenticity, Wasserstein examines the changing role of women, the progress of a generation, and the trials we as individuals all face as we wrestle with the big question: What should we do with our lives?
November 13 – December 28, 2014
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (adapted by Crispin Whittell)
directed by Joe Chvala
Opening Night: Wednesday, November 19
In addition to the nine plays of the subscription season and studio productions, the Guthrie will present its 40th annual production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the perennial favorite that received a new adaptation by Crispin Whittell in 2010 and continues the Guthrie’s holiday tradition for families across the region.
February 7 – March 29, 2015
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
directed by Joe Dowling and David Bolger
Opening Night: Friday, February 13
Joe Dowling collaborates with director and choreographer David Bolger to direct a reimagined take on Shakespeare’s joyous romantic comedy. The play cleverly weaves four stories in a moonlit forest on a midsummer night: the marriage of the Athenian duke to the Amazon queen; the warring Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies; the follies of four lovers in a forest; and the comical efforts of working men and women to stage a play for the royal wedding.
April 11 – May 24, 2015
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
directed by Joe Dowling
Opening Night: Friday, April 17
It is 1692 and a dark magic possesses Salem. The God-fearing citizens are on their guard and no one is beyond suspicion. As investigations into witchcraft reach their height, a woman points a finger at Elizabeth, the blameless wife of John Proctor. But Proctor finds he cannot save Elizabeth without unearthing his own black sin. Arthur Miller’s Tony Award-winning play addresses notions of faith and uncertainty, and truth and deception.
June 20 – August 23, 2015
Meredith Willson’s The Music Man (book, music and lyrics by Meredith Willson, story by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey)
directed by John Miller-Stephany
Opening Night: Friday, June 26
Fast-talking traveling salesman “Professor” Harold Hill lands in River City, Iowa, ready to charm the locals into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band he promises to lead. But his money making scheme crumbles when he falls for Marian the librarian, who transforms him into an honest man. The Tony Award-winning American classic features toe-tapping songs such as “Goodnight, My Someone,” “Gary, Indiana,” “Till There Was You,” and “Seventy-Six Trombones.”
On the McGuire Proscenium Stage
September 9 – October 19, 2014
The White Snake
written and directed by Mary Zimmerman
based on the classic Chinese fable
Opening Night: Friday, September 12
It’s a beloved ancient Chinese story: girl meets boy and falls head over heels. The only problem is that the girl is a white serpent from the spirit world, and to win her love’s heart she must come down from the mountain and take human form. With live music, puppetry and visual metaphors, Tony Award-winner Mary Zimmerman brings a fable to life in an enchanting theatrical spectacle.
November 22, 2014 – January 4, 2015
The Cocktail Hour by A.R. Gurney
directed by Maria Aitken
Opening Night: Friday, November 28
It’s the 1970s in Buffalo and John arrives for dinner at his parents’ home carrying the script of his soon-to-be produced play, depicting his uptight, upper-crust WASP family. Just as the martinis flow over a comically extended cocktail session, so do the revelations and recriminations. With booze-fueled banter, A.R. Gurney (Love Letters) offers a heartfelt comedy of manners about the ties that bind.
March 31 – May 10, 2015
The Guthrie Theater in co-production with American Conservatory Theater presents
Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn (score by Michael Friedman, lyrics by Anne Washburn)
directed by Mark Rucker
Opening Night: Saturday, April 4
What will endure when the cataclysm arrives—when society crumbles and we’re faced with the task of rebuilding? Anne Washburn’s outrageous new comedy, a paean to live theater and to the resilience of Bart Simpson through the ages, is an ingenious exploration of how the pop culture of one era might evolve into the mythology of another. Mr. Burns, a post-electric play was named one of the Top Ten Plays of 2013 by The New York Times.
May 23 – June 28, 2015
Juno and the Paycock by Sean O’Casey
directed by Joe Dowling
Opening Night: Friday, May 29
Jack Boyle, known as the “paycock,” is out of work and spends time drinking and playing cards while Juno, the matriarch, attempts to keep the family together amidst political unrest. When they learn of an inheritance from a relative, the money is spent before it arrives. Will they transcend the events that conspire to keep them in their place? Juno and the Paycock offers a poetically comic and tragic portrait of a family in Dublin following the Irish Civil War.
July 18 – August 30, 2015
Stage Kiss by Sarah Ruhl
directed by Casey Stangl
Opening Night: Friday, July 24
Does art imitate life? Or is it the other way around? When two actors with a history are thrown together as romantic leads in a forgotten 1930s melodrama, they quickly lose touch with reality as the story onstage follows them offstage. From Pulitzer finalist Sarah Ruhl (In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play)) comes a charming tale about what happens when lovers share a stage kiss—or when actors share a real one.
In the Dowling Studio
October 14 – November 2, 2014
A Steady Rain by Keith Huff
directed by Jeff Perry
Opening Night: Friday, October 17
February 14 – March 1, 2015
The Acting Company in association with the Guthrie Theater presents
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from the novel by Mark Twain
directed by Ian Belknap
Opening Night: February 18, 2015
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
directed by Devin Brain
June 16 – July 5, 2015
Choir Boy by Tarell Alvin McCraney
directed by Peter Rothstein
Opening Night: Friday, June 19