“Those we serve,” said Haj, “we serve extremely well, but we are not serving enough people. There are entire populations that are left out.”
|Photo linked from the City Pages; credit to Mark Vancleave.|
"“We are very conscious,” emphasized Haj, “that price is not the only barrier to entry. For some, it’s second, third, fourth on the list of barriers. There’s [the question of] relevance, and there’s the psychological barrier of just coming into our building. Price is a barrier to some — and a meaningful barrier. We’re going to see a different demographic by virtue of [the nine-dollar] price point.”"
The new program, thanks to a $1 million grant, is going to help subsidize ticket prices in the Dowling Studio and make the space more readily available for of-the-moment art. This philosophy will hopefully make the space more accessible to the community and also encourage the Guthrie to become more of a hub and incubator for innovative local theater.
"Haj acknowledged the oft-stated fact that the Guthrie, like any large organization, is a “big ship” that takes a long time to change course. Planning for these “happenings,” he said, is a way to build organizational capacity to more quickly respond to developing events. “Why can’t we have three Zodiacs on board so that we can zip out and come back to our aircraft carrier?” asked Haj, extending the nautical metaphor.
When something like a “Ferguson moment” arises, said Haj by way of example, the Guthrie could host a spoken-word event or otherwise participate in an ongoing conversation. With the Level Nine Initiative, “we can have some resources on the shelf to be responsive,” Haj said."
The Guthrie is an institution that placed the Minneapolis theater scene on the international map, and for that we should be grateful. In recent years, however, it has begun to feel a little stale and certainly not as progressive as some of the other innovative companies and art spaces in the Twin Cities. It seems that Joseph Haj is truly breathing new wind into the sails at the Guthrie now; one can only hope that this continues. I'd love to see the Guthrie as a vital, accessible space, especially to our communities of color.
For more information, check out the excellent City Pages article by clicking on this link.