20th Century, History, Theatre, Uncategorized

Guthrie Theater

Original Guthrie Theater – circa 1963. Amy Sanders. guthrietheater.org

May 8, 1963
The Guthrie Theater, named for its founder and first artistic directory, Sir Tyrone Guthrie, opens in Minneapolis with a performance of Hamlet. Known as an innovator “interested in places that aren’t central marketplaces of theater,” Guthrie assembles a distinguished repertory company that includes George Grizzard, Hume Cronyn, and Jessica Tandy. *

In a private conversation over breakfast, three friends despaired the commercialization of Broadway. This triumvirate, composed of uber director Sir Tyrone Guthrie, stage manager Peter Zeisler, and producer Oliver Rea, committed to move elsewhere and build a theatrical community of their own design. ** They were determined to bring gravitas, excellence, and elevation to audiences not exposed to classical theatre.

To be more precise, Mr. Guthrie gave the following quote as to why he saw a promising future of theatre in the Twin Cities.
“We believe that something here (Minneapolis-St. Paul) had a chance growing into an institution where we did not believe that such a growth was absolutely possible on Broadway. The over competitive, over stimulated, over crowded nature of the Broadway theatre makes it impossible to take a longer view than Thursday next.” **
In Minnesota, these men found a fertile soil to plant their theatre. Local businesses and foundations donated exploratory money and land. Renowned local architect Ralph Rapson was tapped to provide his forward-thinking concepts to the building, and Tanya Moiseiwitsch designed the thrust stage.,* Public support was profound, and Minnesotans volunteered to boost ticket sales, and raised $2.2 million to establish the project.****

To embellish this point further, Dr. Guthrie gave the following answer to local Minnesota students when asked about the importance of “this kind” of theatre. His reply reveals his heart to inspire.
“Plays are meant to be acted, not dissected in a classroom…Just as a community needs a public library where great books are available, or an art museum where you can see great pictures, or a symphony orchestra where you can hear great music, so you need a theatre where great plays can be brought to life.” *

So we turn to You, Host of History, to remember this moment when a theatre is born. No one but You can write a script eons long, heighten the drama of the human experience, or provide the unexpected denouement of our Christ! Today, we remember You, first, as the Supreme Author and Director of the drama of life. Be forever praised!

We applaud Sir Guthrie’s efforts to establish a beachhead of this art form within the seas of entertainment of the 1960’s. Bravissimo! Has he captured Your heart when he stated, “Plays are meant to be acted not dissected in a classroom…”? We see something very sacred here; when one acts, they are placing their whole being in participation of a storyline while potentially engaging both themselves and their audience very deeply with the virtues of a great script. Engagement through action involves risk. Yet, the potential for learning at a much deeper level, and the rewards of making a brave journey are only known by those who partake. So, we thank You for this moment that sparked this vision in the Guthrie Theatre Company, its patrons and volunteers, and its impact on Minnesota of 1963!

It is apparent that this venture, which has captured the hearts of at least two generations of Minnesotans, had to battle through the seas of modernity. Since the era of movies and television, theatre has been largely monetized. Where can we find a place where “stories for the sake of stories” exist?

Although they can and do exist in live venues, we still and feel the encroaching arms of influencers. Playwrights become famous, often, when they sell their rights to make a movie of their scripts. All kinds of foundations seek writers, directors, dancers, and theatre companies who will bend a story to their liking. Even political and spiritual groups are in on the game; i.e. “we will fund you if you heighten this issue, let’s call it “Issue X”, in the public’s mind through your artistry.” Good G-d, have we moved an inch as artists from being the court jesters, poet laureates, or entertainers of the aristocracy?

But You, our Prophet of Parables, taught us in a similar way except You forsook our purse strings for our heart strings! Help me remember a few, Lord?
The Lamp-Matthew 5:14-16
The Mustard Seed-Mark 4:30-34
The Good Samaritan-Luke10:29-37
The Prodigal Son-Luke 15:11-32
The Sheep, Shepherd, and Gate-John 10:1-18
Though these fables and apologues were given to mostly agricultural Semetic people groups over fifty generations ago; they retain Your genius today for those not familiar with those sub-cultures! Conversely, the Messiah also intersected in parable with the educated and worldly within Israel, and freely spoke with relevance to Arabian, Persian, Greeks, and Romans. You spoke in parables to portray the unspeakable words of our hearts to us. Those not ready to engage with You heard a good story, while those who were found themselves exposed before Wisdom Eternal.

Will You forgive us our judgments past of a man who desired cultural engagement in greatness through the means of the Guthrie Theatre? Will You forgive us our misapplications of artistry, through all aspects of theatre, towards the highest bidder? Will You guide us as playwrights, actors, directors, crew members, costumers to “allow” our audiences to feel rather than emotionally manipulating what they “should” feel? Will You bless Minnesota theatre to go beyond Guthrie’s vision of greatness and into the Messiah’s chesed of heart?

Lord, I leave You with a story, (I’m sure You know it), and a prayer. About a century ago, three children climbed a hill outside Fatima, Portugal; Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta. There, they encountered an angel who taught them this prayer. I wonder if it was to buffer the suffering of the Great War? Today I echo this prayer which I amend only slightly.

“My G-d, I believe (in theatre and story), I adore, I hope, and I love Thee. I ask for pardon for those who do not believe (in theatre and story), do not adore, do not hope, and do not love Thee.”

P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
** O’Neill, Hannah. “An Englishman in Minneapolis: Sir Tyrone Guthrie”. May 12, 2017. Internet. https://www.continuum.umn.edu/2017/05/englishman-minneapolis-sir-tyrone-guthrie/
*** Combs, Marianne. “Architect Ralph Rapson at 91”. September 13, 2005. Minnesota Public Radio. Internet. http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2005/09/13_combsm_rapson/
**** A brief history of the Guthrie.https://www.guthrietheater.org/globalassets/pdf/guthrie_history.pdf
* “Guthrie Theater: Miracle in Minnesota”. (The Minnesota Theatre Company)1963. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkIXv_L3QHQ&t=456s

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20th Century, African American, Art, Black History, History, Intercession, Judgment & Counter-Judgment Cycle, Minnesota, omnipresent history

Gordon Parks’ Career Begins

images

1938

“Gordon Parks had moved to St. Paul as a teenager and struggled through the depression working at odd jobs. One day he buys a camera in a pawn shop and in a matter of weeks has his first show at Eastman Kodak in Minneapolis. Thus begins a long, distinguished career as a photographer, composer, novelist, and filmmaker.” *

Ears that hear and eyes that see-the Lord has made them both. Proverbs 20:12

Gordon was born dead, or so the doctor thought, on November 30,1912 wrapped in a cloth and set aside. An observer had an idea to put the child in a tub of ice water, and gently rub ice over his body. Surprisingly, this homespun method worked, and he was revived! **

Parks was born the last child of fifteen to Andrew Jackson Parks and Sarah Ross. He worked on the family farm in Fort Scott, Kansas, and held a lifetime attachment to the land. Thought his youth, he wrestled with the dichotomy of a place that was legally free, yet socially informed by the south. He went to a segregated school, and was discouraged from applying to college by his high school advisor because blacks “were not college material.” ** Sadly, Parks did not finish high school, but it didn’t stop his momentum.

About 1927, his mother died, and he was sent to live with his older sister in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Though she cared for him, her husband was in constant conflict with him, and eventually he was turned out of their home at age fifteen. He struggled with homelessness and poverty in the frigid winters, but survived by doing odd jobs working as a: porter, snow shoveler, busboy, semi-pro basketball player, and piano player for a brothel.**

Eventually, his life stabilized by getting steady work as a server on a train. This job had the fringe benefit of exposing him to different people, cultures, and opportunities. Inspired by the art exhibits of Chicago, he bought his first camera, a Voightlander Brilliant, from a pawn shop and began taking pictures.

Mr. Parks recounted that day saying: “Eastman Kodak developed the first roll of film…. and when I went for the prints, one of the clerks complimented me on my first efforts. ‘Keep it up and we’ll give you a show.’ I didn’t take him seriously and he realized it. ‘I mean it,’ he said. ‘You’ve got a good eye.’” ** He continued shooting, and they did give him the show as promised. 

Spurred on by this success, Gordon went to the finest women’s clothing store in Saint Paul, Frank Murphy Fashions, and sought to demonstrate his skills in fashion photography. Though he double-exposed his first roll of film, the one photo that turned out was so elegant that they were willing to repeat the process.*** This began his acceptance in the world of fashion photography.

The success of his Murphy fashion shoots caught the eye of Marva Louis, the bride of the famed boxer Joe Louis. She inspired the Parks’ to consider moving to Chicago as there would be more fashion work for Gordon there. He ended up taking portraits of society women, but it opened the next door for them to move to Washington D.C.**ibid

In a strange turn of events, he was hired by the Farm Security Administration on the weight of an exhibition of his pictures of life on the life of city folks from Chicago’s South Side. Under the tutelage of Roy Stryker, he learned to tell stories in pictures that words could not convey. It was in this era that his most famous photo was born.**ibid

His first assignment given by Stryker was to buy and overcoat, get something to eat, and to catch a matinee. Thinking he had won the lottery, he went shopping, but the staff wouldn’t fit a black man. Next, he went to grab some lunch, but the diner refused to serve him unless he came to the back alley. He was shooed away from the theatre. 

The coin dropped for him; I can show the public what citizenship feels like as minority in the America of the 1940’s. He later struck up a conversation with Eva Watson, an African-American janitor in his building the same day. She was willing to have her picture taken by Parks in the lobby of the FSA building, and “American Gothic, Washington, D.C.” was born.**ibid

So here I am today, Lord, to watch and pray with You about Gordon Parks and his accomplishments in the arts. Let me reflect on how You are El Roi; the Strong One who Sees. You observe the events of time concurrently; past, present, and future. You see our externals, and our innermost thoughts and motivations.

I recall the promptings of the apostle Paul to the early church in Ephesus to use their hearts in “seeing”. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people…” Ephesians 1:18 NIV**** I don’t know much about the spiritual life of Mr. Parks, but it is clear that You have downloaded this gift into him.

We give You thanks for this dualistic vision of Gordon Parks; to see people, places, and things in the light of eternity. We thank You that he instinctively saw value and meaning and dignity in the lives of those to whom society was blind. In his own way, he saw through the eyes of Christ.

Will You bless the inheritance given to Minnesota and the United States through the camera lens of Gordon Parks? Will You bless his figurative and literal children to see with the eyes of their hearts? Will You make us soft and receptive to these images of pain, beauty, unrest, and exaltation?

Forgive us, sweet Holy Spirit, we are flooded with images each day through our vices and devices, but we are still thirsty for one glance that inspires. Our conscience has cataracts and we don’t acknowledge the pure, the real, the noble, or Your pure light beaming into our eyes radiating from the faces of our neighbor. Help us, like Mr. Parks, to see because we have truly listened to the human actors in the drama of each day!

Come and heal our blindness! Come and let us hear! Open the eyes of our hearts in Minnesota so we can perceive the messages You are constantly sending to us through others. Open the apertures of our consciences so that we can also see inwardly. Add to our personal and cultural memory; click the shutter so we remember the moments when catch a glimpse of the Immortal and Invisible!

* http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm

** You Tube. “Half Past Autumn; The Life and Works of Gordon Parks”. Published by On the Road. February 8, 2017. Producer Craig Rice. Writer Lou Rother. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzeuL0d5Z_s

*** This photo can be viewed at the current website of Frank Murphy Fashions. http://www.frankmurphyfashions.com/about/history/

**** https://biblehub.com/ephesians/1-18.htm

 

 

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