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‘West Side Story’ propels Guthrie Theater to a record-setting year

December 4, 2018

Powered by last summers blockbuster run of West Side Story, the Guthrie Theater reported the highest-grossing season in its 55-year history Monday.

The show played at 100 percent of capacity and sold more tickets than any previous Guthrie show, the company reported at its annual meeting Monday.

Overall, box-office sales rose $2 million to $14.9 million in the fiscal year ended Aug. 31 a 16 percent increase from the previous year.

The Guthrie ended 2017-18 with a budget surplus of $22,213. Attendance grew by 7 percent, with 395,236 patrons taking in 608 performances of 30 productions at the Guthrie. Ticket sales accounted for just over half of the theaters $29 million budget.

In addition to West Side Story, which boasted dynamic new choreography by Cuban-American phenom Maija Garcia, two other shows played at 95 percent capacity or above: Danai Guriras intercultural marriage comedy Familiar and the holiday favorite A Christmas Carol.

When you have a record year like we did, its never just one title, Artistic Director Joseph Haj said Monday. Its a matrix of things that break your way. Were thrilled that the community has responded so strongly to our work.

Other seasonal highlights included the drag comedy The Legend of Georgia McBride; a stage adaptation of Guess Whos Coming to Dinner, and Watch on the Rhine, the first Lillian Hellman play staged at the Guthrie.

Haj, currently in his fourth season as leader, also directed the theaters previous box-office champ, the 2016 summer musical South Pacific.

The record year was driven by single-ticket sales, as the number of season-ticket holders declined to 17,481, off 11 percent from 2016-17, when subscriptions reached a five-year peak.

The theater earned a return of $3.7 million on its endowment, which now stands at $55 million, up from $49 million last year. It had a draw of $2.3 million for operations, about the same as last year. Total contributions increased slightly, to $9.3 million.

The Guthries solid finish is even more noteworthy because the theater was buffeted by turbulence over the past season when Haj lost three senior leaders of his dream team.

Things are moving in the right direction, he said. On Monday, Haj introduced Rebecca Cribbin as the Guthries new production director, replacing David Stewart, who left to work at Disney World in Orlando. Cribbin held that position at the Dallas Theater Center for the past two years. Before that, she spent nearly 21 years at the Royal Shakespeare Company in London, 14 of them as production manager.

Haj said the search continues for both a new managing director and development director after Jennifer Bielstein and Danielle St. Germain-Gordon, respectively, were poached by cultural institutions in San Francisco.

And hes excited about the current season, which includes the July 27 world premiere of Floyds, playwright Lynn Nottages follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning Sweat.

We just had a workshop in November in New York, and I believe its going to be a major work, he said.

612-673-4390 @rohanpreston

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