Our Story

Our History

The Guthrie Theater opened on May 7, 1963, with a production of Hamlet directed by Sir Tyrone Guthrie, the theater’s founder. The idea for the theater began in 1959 during a series of conversations among Guthrie and two colleagues – Oliver Rea and Peter Zeisler – who were disenchanted with Broadway. They wanted to create a resident theater that would perform the classics with the highest professional standards.

The Guthrie symbolized for many the birth of the not-for-profit resident theater movement. Today, the theater’s pursuit of artistic excellence has remained constant, though much has changed. What began as a summer season of four productions supported by a minimal staff is now a complex organization operating year-round and employing more than 500 people. 

Explore our extended history here

Miracle in Minnesota

Life magazine called it “a miracle.” Newsweek said it was “conceivably the most important theater opening of a generation.” The New York Times called it “a cause for celebration.” Watch historical footage of the Guthrie Theater's 1963 opening.


Founders Peter Zeisler, Tyrone Guthrie, Oliver Rea 

Original Board of Directors

The Guthrie’s first ever Opening Night

1963 production of Hamlet, the Guthrie’s first production

1975 production of A Christmas Carol

Guthrie Artistic Director Liviu Ciulei and Managing Director Don Schoenbaum receiving the Tony Award

Guthrie Lab in the Minneapolis Warehouse District

Groundbreaking for the new Guthrie, September 2003

2006 production of Hamlet, the final production in our original home.

June 2006, our new facility opens to the public.

Celebrating our 50th Anniversary in 2013

Dowling Studio lobby

Key moments in Guthrie history

  • March 1959

    Sir Tyrone Guthrie begins a series of conversations with colleagues Oliver Rea and Peter Zeisler, who are disenchanted with Broadway.

  • September 1959

    Their idea for a major resident theater is introduced in The New York Times, inviting cities across the country to make their interest known.

  • May 1960

    After visiting seven cities, Rea announces that Minneapolis has been chosen.

  • May 7, 1963

    The Guthrie Theater opens with Hamlet, directed by Sir Tyrone Guthrie.

  • 1975

    The Guthrie begins to present its annual holiday production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

  • 1982

    The Guthrie Theater receives a Tony Award for its outstanding contribution to the American theater.

  • 1988

    Artistic Director Garland Wright creates the Guthrie Laboratory in the Minneapolis Warehouse District, providing space to develop new work.

  • September 2003

    Ground is broken for a new facility, designed by Jean Nouvel, on the banks of the Mississippi River.

  • May 7, 2006

    The original Guthrie closes with a production of Hamlet, directed by Artistic Director Joe Dowling.

  • June 25, 2006

    The new Guthrie opens to the public.

  • June 2013

    The Guthrie Theater celebrates its 50th Anniversary with a weekend-long celebration.

  • April 2016

    The Guthrie is awarded $1 million from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of a groundbreaking Level Nine initiative.

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Destiny of Desire

May 30 – July 11
A switched-at-birth comedy 

Learn more about Destiny of Desire

2020–2021 SEASON

Explore Our Season

A memorable season of classics and notable new works

See the lineup about Explore Our Season



June 20 – August 23 
A musical masterpiece 

Learn more about Cabaret