"Native Gardens" by Karen Zacarías at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2016. Pictured: John Lescault, Sabina Zuniga Varela, Gabriel Ruiz, and Karen Ziemba. (Photo by Mikki Schaffner)

Guthrie Theater Announces Joseph Haj’s First Mainstage Season

Among a mix of classics and new works is a world premiere from the Moving Company.

MINNEAPOLIS: The Guthrie Theater has announced its 2016–17 mainstage season, the first under artistic director Joseph Haj, including a range of classics, adaptations, and new works. Another band of artistic programming curated by Haj for the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio will be announced later this month.

The Guthrie's new artistic director, Joe Haj. (Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp)
The Guthrie’s new artistic director, Joe Haj. (Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp)

“Over the last number of months, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to really get to know our patrons in the Twin Cities and the region and discover what inspires theatergoers here,” said Haj in a statement. “Today, I am proud to announce a subscription season featuring nine plays that, at their core, tell dynamic, captivating, and engaging stories worthy of our audience and the greater community. These were my imperatives in assembling my first season as the Guthrie’s artistic director, and I am excited to share it with our audience.”

Haj added, “Our mainstage season delivers breadth, depth and a plurality of voices that really excites me, and I look forward to complementing this mix of plays with a full slate of programming in the Dowling Studio. To me, the studio is perhaps the most dynamic, thrilling space under our roof. I see enormous potential for the intersection of great art and conversation there, and in the coming weeks I cannot wait to reveal what we have planned.”

The season begins with Sense and Sensibility (Sept. 10–Oct. 29), in Kate Hamill’s adaptation of the Jane Austen novel, to be directed by the Jungle Theater’s new leader, Sarah Rasmussen. Rasmussen previously directed Hamill’s version at Dallas Theater Center last season; this production marks her Guthrie directorial debut.

Next is The Parchman Hour: Songs and Stories of the ’61 Freedom Riders, an historical solo show by North Carolina-based writer/performer Mike Wiley, directed by Patricia McGregor (Oct. 1–Nov. 6). Wiley recreates the nightly variety show staged in their cells by imprisoned activists at the dawn of the Civil Rights movement.

Then, opposite the holiday perennial A Christmas Carol (Nov. 15–Dec. 30, in Crispin Whittell’s adaptation, with direction and choreography by Joe Chvala) comes another Yuletide-set play, James Goldman’s The Lion in Winter (Nov. 19–Dec. 31). In this beloved tale, King Henry II, his imprisoned Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their three entitled sons vie for the throne in a double-dealing division of the kingdom.

The new year begins with George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber’s metatheatrical comedy The Royal Family (Jan. 28–March 19, 2017), about the exploits of the fictional Cavendish clan (a thinly veiled stand-in for the Barrymore acting dynasty).

Haj will direct the next production, Shakespeare’s King Lear (Feb. 11–April 2, 2017). The play has been produced only twice before by the Guthrie, first in the 1974-75 season, directed by Michael Langham, and again in the 1995-96 season, directed by Garland Wright.

Then comes Lydia R. Diamond’s adapation of the Toni Morrison novel The Bluest Eye, directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz (April 15–May 21, 2017). This is the heartrending coming-of-age story of a young black girl in 1940s Ohio, Pecola Breedlove.

The season’s first world premiere follows: Refugia (May 13–June 11, 2017) is an original work by the Moving Company, core members of the legendary Theatre de la Jeune Lune, including director Dominique Serrand. Refugia is described as a “riveting investigation of those who find themselves navigating life’s margins at the crossroads of transition,” and will be developed at the Guthrie in the fall of 2016, in the first collaboration between the Guthrie and the Moving Company.

The season continues with Sunday in the Park with George, the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine (June 17–Aug. 20, 2017).

Opposite Sunday in the Park with George, the Guthrie will present the culture-clash comedy Native Gardens by Karen Zacarías (July 15–Aug. 20, 2017). The play recently had its premiere at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

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