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The Guthrie Theater (1990)

The Guthrie Theater (1990)

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Yale School of Drama
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One scholar has called the earliest regional theatres "acorn theatres," meaning that they grew somewhat randomly, from very small, scattered, and uncertain origins. In his book Regional Theatre: The Revolutionary Stage (University of Minnesota Press, 1973, p. 65), Joseph Wesley Zeigler contrasts these "acorn theatres" with another type of regional theatre that emerged in the early 1960's: "theatres sanctioned by the power structure of communities, large and famous from their inception - theatres which were, in short, 'oak trees,' planted fully grown." He characterizes the fundamental differences between the "acorns" and "oak trees" as follows:

Institutionally, the difference was in scope. The early acorn theatres were started by anonymous people seeking places in which to work and to define their own untested talents. Their anonymity forced them to start small, to work with no money and no power and with people as unknown as themselves. The oak tree theatres, corning at the time of the new cultural climate, could bring civic power to bear upon their purpose; they could be not only embraced by the Establishment but willed into being by it.

The personal difference between the acorn theatres and the oak tree theatres lay in the relationship between the two kinds of leaders and the central theatre of Broadway. The acorn leaders had banished Broadway without having fully experienced it; theirs was an abstract, philosophical rejection of the central theatre. The creators of the first oak tree theatres were people saying "no" to Broadway after many years of experience there; their rejection of the central theatre was specific and personal. For the first time, there were people banishing something they knew firsthand.

The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis was, according to Zeigler, the "first and prototypical oak tree."

Publication Date: 1990-05-15

Suggested Citation: Joan Channick, "The Guthrie Theater (1990)," Yale Theater Management Knowledge Base Case Study #1, May 15, 1990

Keywords: Minneapolis, Leadership, Leadership Transition, Organizational Direction, Theater

Teaching Notes: No

About the Theater Management Knowledge Base

This case is from the Theater Management Knowledge Base, a body of arts management material created by Yale School of Drama Theater Management students and faculty, overseen by an editorial board of leading practitioners. For more information or for help in selecting cases suitable for your educational or organizational purposes, please email yaletmknowledgebase@yale.edu.