Guthrie Theater Declares “Happening” and “Amber Sanctuary”

Would Andrew Mellon object that his foundational wealth is funding “happenings” at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis? What if you told him that the Guthrie no longer welcomes Center of the American Experiment when we have our own (paid) “happenings,” better know as the “Fall Briefing?” (Yes, because they find our ideas offensive.)

Would Andrew Mellon be welcome at the Guthrie?

We all deal with tragedy and strife in different ways, and we expect the arts to interpret and reflect the big events around us. Mass shootings are deeply disturbing to be sure but that is not all that is “happening” at the Guthrie. The theater is declaring itself a place of sanctuary in a spiritual way, but the message is mostly secular. There is no appeal to God or a higher authority except that a Rabbi will be there leading the Jewish prayer of mourning (good). But mostly, it is a multicultural hangout. It feels like all the old hippies, now well established as the reining elite, have taken over the building.

And taken over the arts.

Music, theater, dance and the visual arts–where can one go for say, a traditional performance of Shakespeare? The last time I bought tickets to “A Christmas Carol ” at the Guthrie, the ghost of Christmas Present sang a rap song with an orange plastic microphone. It broke my heart.

Would the Guthrie or other institutions even welcome art from a more traditional or conservative point of view (whatever that means)?

Though the Guthrie may get some kind of public money (see, Legacy Amendment), it is a private organization and can do whatever it wants.

And apparently, it does. But remember, you do not have to fund it.

Be sure to read the whole thing, to the very end.



A free community Happening on Monday, November 19

(Minneapolis/St. Paul) — The Guthrie Theater (Joseph Haj, artistic director) announced the next community Happening, Amber Sanctuary, on Monday, November 19 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. in response to the recent, tragic mass shootings at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California. Because of the ways in which our notions of sanctuaries and safe spaces have been attacked by similar shootings at Pulse, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Sandy Hook and others, the Guthrie will convert the Pohlad Lobby on Level Nine into a space for communal reflection and sanctuary. As we approach Thanksgiving, a holiday that is often a time for reflection as family and friends, the Guthrie desires to provide a gathering space for the larger Twin Cities community. The event is free and no tickets or reservations are required.

Rugs and chairs will be set up around the space, and Guthrie guests may use their time in the sanctuary as needed. Specific time will also be set aside for silent meditation, and guests will be invited to participate in a modified version of the Japanese tradition of Senbazuru, which involves folding origami cranes that contain personal wishes for the future. The completed paper cranes will be strung together into a display of hope at the end of the day.

In the evening, Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman from Temple Israel will lead guests in the Mourner’s Kaddish, the ancient Jewish prayer regularly recited by those in mourning, offered here as a tribute to those lost in Pittsburgh (October 27) and Thousand Oaks (November 8).

The tentative schedule for Monday, November 19 is:

  • 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. – Quiet Reflection and Senbazuru
  • 2–3 p.m. – Silent Meditation and Senbazuru
  • 3–5 p.m. – Quiet Reflection and Senbazuru
  • 5–6 p.m. – Silent Meditation and Senbazuru
  • 6–7 p.m. – Quiet Reflection and Senbazuru
  • 7–7:30 p.m. – Mourner’s Kaddish (led by Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman)
  • 7:30–9 p.m. – Quiet Reflection and Stringing Together of Paper Cranes

Amber Sanctuary is part of the Guthrie’s series of Happenings, which are periodic and timely events that are responsive to current events and immediately relevant to the world around us. Happenings are part of the Guthrie’s Level Nine Series, conceptualized by Artistic Director Joseph Haj and generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Level Nine Series emphasizes the creation of a theater that wrestles with urgent questions and inspires dynamic dialogue with its audience, expands the diversity of voices, visions and styles on its stages, and engages community members currently underserved by its work.

Previous Happenings include An Immigrants’ Cabaret, an evening of music, movement and poetry; A Purple Celebration honoring the legacy of the late Minneapolis music legend Prince; Enacting the Dream, an opportunity to reflect on the lived realities of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients living in the United States; Aftermath: A Newtown Screening and Community Conversation about the impact of gun violence on public health; Anthems for Community, a celebration supporting the diversity of voices, histories and experiences in the Guthrie community; Water Is Sacred, a performance combining ceremony, music, text, dance and discussion to honor and celebrate water and recognize the ways it has been threatened on Indigenous lands; The Trump Card, acclaimed monologist Mike Daisey’s exploration of Donald J. Trump and how he rose to his standing in the 2016 presidential race; and Acting Black, a solo project by Carlyle Brown that explored the appropriation of the African-American narrative.