#54: Attend a show at the Guthrie

We humans can be a funny breed.  Often we long for what we don’t have, instead of appreciating all that we do possess.  Indeed, sometimes we can’t even see options and opportunities that are immediately in front of us, because we are consumed with ideas of things we think we lack.  From relationships, to jobs, to the cities we occupy, the imagined grass ‘over there’ seems to be lush and weed-free, whereas our own landscape looks like a scrappy mess of dandelions and thistle.

Fortunately, I am absolutely smitten with the man I married, and I enjoy both my field of employment and my employer.  But sometimes I am guilty of wondering how life might be different (better?) if I lived someplace else….  I like the city I’ve resided in for the past 15 years, but it certainly isn’t as relaxed as California, or as vibrant as New York, or as personable as Georgia… So I have been guilty of playing the occasional mental game of “what if?”

When I created my 101 list, I wanted every item to be something that was completely new to me.  I wanted to experience novelty, as well as push myself beyond my established, comfortable routines.  At the same time, however, I wanted to stay grounded and use the 101 tasks to help me grow deeper into my life (instead of avoiding/bypassing whatever was here to be experienced).  So more than a few of the items on the list involve interacting with people, places, or things that exist close to my home, but that for one reason or another I have not yet explored.  I don’t want to be ignorant of all that is near me; I want to appreciate everything that is in ‘my own back yard’.

About a month ago I started populating my calendar with a variety of events from the 101 list; then two weeks ago, my sweetie and I made our way to the Guthrie, one of many theaters in the city.

Of all the theater houses in the area, I selected the Guthrie for inclusion on my list because I have a friend who is an actor, who has performed at the Guthrie in the past, and whom I had hoped to see live on the stage.  Alas, she is taking a break from the demanding schedule (and overall life) of a professional actor, and isn’t performing these days.  I’m not sure when she might resume working in the entertainment industry, so I decided to go ahead and see a Guthrie production this season, even if it didn’t include her.  I scanned the various offerings, and consulted with my aforementioned husband to see what his interests were (as this was one item in which he wanted to participate as well) – and the two of us decided to get tickets for Hay Fever, a Noel Coward comedy set in the 1920s.

My sweetie and I saw the play during the last days of its run.  Now that the production is finished and the Guthrie has moved on to its next show, I feel more free to share my honest thoughts about the experience.  🙂

Overall, I wasn’t that impressed with the whole Guthrie experience.  The physical building is kind of cool, and the thrust stage we sat at was decent, but none of it struck me as “oh-wow-FANTASTIC!”.  The interior of the Guthrie was fine.  The lounge was fine.  The seats were fine.  The acoustics were fine.  The sight lines were fine.  But nothing was super-cool, over-the-top, make-a-huge-impression-on-me; it was all just ‘fine’.

Similarly, I thought that the acting was also just ‘fine’.  Some of the actors were more expressive than others, and I did appreciate the professional level at which of a few of them performed; but largely, I have seen just as skilled performances at the university I attended during my undergraduate days – and for a third of the price.  (Granted, I graduated from college 15 years ago, but I imagine costs haven’t increased THAT much from then to now.)  😉

Immediately after the show, my sweetie and I talked about the play, the performance, the experience – and I shared with him that I just wasn’t impressed.  When he probed about what was lacking for me, I couldn’t put my finger on anything super-specific, but could only say that something about it felt ‘off’ – the whole experience just felt very ‘average’.

Interestingly, a few days after the performance, a Guthrie employee sent an email asking me to complete an online evaluation of the show.  As I answered the various questions posed, I began to gain some clarity around why I felt so “meh” about the Guthrie experience.  The short answer is that I just didn’t feel connected to it.  Theater (and movies, and novels, and other such forms of entertainment) generally require the viewer to become immersed in the experience in order for it to be rewarding; when the viewer/reader loses all track of time, emotionally invests in the plot and the characters, almost sees herself in the actual setting… that is when an experience moves from ‘just okay’ to ‘fantastic!’

I have a wonderfully vivid imagination, and willingly suspend disbelief with ease during moments designed to entertain – so more often than not, I do connect with an experience both at a cognitive level and at a deeper (more fulfilling) emotional level.  But for whatever reason(s), this play only engaged my mind, not my spirit – so it left me wanting.

But.  I can now say that I have been to a play at the Guthrie – and I now know what I’m not missing.  😉


P.S.  Here are my responses to the Guthrie survey, if you are interested in perusing them.

Post-Performance Survey:

  • To what degree did you lose track of time and become completely absorbed in the performance?  (Somewhat.  Much more in the first act than in the second and third.)
  • How strongly did you feel a connection to the other members of the audience?  (Not at all.)
  • How much did the performance engage you on an intellectual level? (A decent amount.)
  • To what extent do you feel that you understood the production and what the artists were trying to convey? (I understood the artist’s POV completely.)
  • Do you recall leaving the performance with questions that you would like to ask the performers or creators of the work? (Nope.)
  • Afterwards, did you discuss the meaning or merits of the performance with others who attended? (Yes – casual exchange. My sweetie and I talked about the show and the performance for literally 3-4 minutes afterwards [basically, from the time it took us to walk from the theater to the car], and that was that.)
  • How would you characterize your emotional response to the performance? (Weak.)
  • To what extent did you relate to, or feel sympathy for, one or more of the characters? (Moderate.  I did feel some empathy for the guests in the play, and I did have feelings of understanding for the outlandish mom and son in the play.)
  • How much did this performance change your feelings about theater, in general? (No change.  If anything, it turned me off of professional theater, and nudged me more towards college level [or even very quality high school level] productions.)
  • Do you think your attendance at this performance will cause you to be more creative in your work or your leisure pursuits? (No. The writing I do is a creative outlet for me [as is my volunteer work], and I engaged in those activities well before attending this production.)
  • To what extent did the performance expose you to one or more cultures outside your own life experience? (Not at all.)
  • To what extent did the performance celebrate or sustain your own cultural heritage? (Not at all.)
  • Did the performance leave you with a new insight on human relations or social issues, or a perspective that you didn’t have before? (Nope.  I already understand many of the ways in which families can be dysfunctional, and I also already understand/have empathy for how awkward that familial acting out can be for visitors or strangers.)
  • If you were to describe the play to a friend, which words would you use? Check all that apply. (I chose Funny, Visual, Entertaining, Well-acted, and wrote in ‘A bit slow towards the end’.)
  • Would you recommend this play? (No. The level of acting and quality of production simply didn’t justify the price tag; I could experience similar quality of work elsewhere for half the price [or less].)
  • What other resources/activities did you use/participate in? Please select all that apply. (I chose Playbill.  Other options provided were: Video content on the play’s web page; Discussion with the cast post-play; In-depth online essays.)
  • How far in advance of the performance did you purchase your tickets? (Within 3-5 weeks.)
  • Which best describes you as a Guthrie patron?  (This is my first time attending a Guthrie production.)
  • The survey then requested demographic data (age and ethnicity.  For the record I’m a white female aged 35-44.)  🙂

P.P.S.  Here are a few pictures I took at the Guthrie.

The view from one of the theater’s windows. Looking to the right, I saw this lounge – cantilevered several stories above the ground.

The left-side view from the same window – a nice panorama of eastern side of the city.

Okay, done.  Thanks for reading all the way to the end!  🙂    ~ Stef

About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
This entry was posted in 101 in 1001, day zero project, postaday and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to #54: Attend a show at the Guthrie

  1. Touch2Touch says:

    VERY interested in this post.
    The Guthrie has long been legendary. (I’ve never been to Minneapolis, therefore never been there myself.) It has always been cited as one of the great regional theatres of the US.
    So we were all excited a month or two or three ago that the Guthrie was mounting a production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore to be TELEVISED. I marked the date on my Franklin Planner, and there we were sitting front row center before the telly for the performance.
    It wasn’t 15 minutes until, in deep disappointment, we switched off.
    The production was broad and crude and campy beyond belief, and — you empower me to say it — not even populated by very good voices, or professional expertise. We were shocked.
    But I’ve somehow retained faith that this was a blip, an unaccountable lapse of taste, wit, expertise. Reading your post, I wonder: Maybe it wasn’t? Maybe there’s been a decline?
    Maybe the survey itself is a clue to possible problems at the Guthrie. In my not-so-humble opinion it is the most pretentious and overblown survey I’ve ever seen! Who on earth (besides a pro critic maybe) thinks about a theatrical performance in those terms? In such labored and lengthy prose? If anything is a medium of immediacy, it had better be the theater!
    I will add, though, that Hay Fever (and indeed most Noel Coward I’ve ever seen) is dated, outmoded, and lacking in much possibility for real emotional response (Coward didn’t write it for that in the first place), only viable with the most outstanding actors and polished of directors — and even then, can be a disaster! So the choice of vehicle is really questionable as well.

    Ah me, the long-winded lady will finally shut up. Applause for your post, however!


    • Stef says:

      Judith, I, too, have heard that the Guthrie lauded as a fantastic regional theater – hence the inclusion on my 101 list. And I also thought that perhaps this performance was a ‘blip’, you put it – a momentary lapse in professionalism. Alas, I’m leaning more and more towards the idea that the Guthrie is no longer the amazing theater it once was. Times change, people change, theaters change; when I see more live productions, I will likely view them on a college campus. 🙂


  2. It was a learning experience. ‘nough said. 🙂


  3. Well, you got one thing crossed off your 101 in 1001 list, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time!

    I’ll tell you something that will make you feel better about California. Unless you go to the backcountry and meet nice, relaxed people, California is anything BUT relaxed. It’s a whole bunch of stressed out, overworked people who are never happy with how much they have and always want more, unless they’re unemployed and then they’re quite unhappy. To California’s defense, there are some great places to visit and it’s a great place to do things on the weekends because of the clement weather year round.


    • Stef says:

      Acquiring knowledge and new experiences is never a waste in my book. I may not necessarily “like” all of the experiences I encounter, but each one is valuable – regardless of how ‘valued’ it is. Make some sense?

      And yes, every place has its issues. I’ve been to a few cities in CA (San Bernadino, Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario, San Francisco), and while some people are frenetic, I did meet quite a few relaxed types, too. But I suppose that can be said for any location (though I *do* think 99% of the population in NYC is more neurotic than not). 😉


  4. deenie12 says:

    I loved this post, Stef… even though, on the surface, it was a post about a 101 experience you felt ‘meh’ about, in the end, it was really about expressing insight: into the reasons you wanted to try new things in your own backyard, as well as the reasons why you didn’t necessarily enjoy this particular thing. This insight, I would imagine, is a big reason you are completing the 101 list. I love hearing these updates, keep them coming! 🙂


    • Stef says:

      It’s funny: the experiences are one thing, but in writing about them, I live them at a MUCH deeper level than if I simply crossed them off the list once they were “done”. You are absolutely right in that the insights I am gleaning from each experience are a big motivator to complete the next. I have several more 101 items lined up already, so the updates will definitely continue to come. 🙂 Thanks for reading, and for sharing your thoughts! I appreciate it.


  5. Cracking opening paragraph Stef. It really drew me in. 🙂


  6. Pingback: #45: Go to Art A Whirl | Smile, kiddo.

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