Stage Protest

With demolition all but assured, preservationists aim to take their fight to court

While the Walker is not worried about legal challenges, Galligan says, the debate over the building's future hasn't been a pleasant experience. "The Walker Art Center is not accustomed to having any level of public dissent or antagonism over our mission or our program," he says. "Of course it's very uncomfortable."

For Bob Roscoe, the Walker's arguments echo the ones he has heard many times over the years, as developers have put forth rationales for bringing in the wrecking ball. It is, he observes, a peculiar aspect of the city's character. "Minneapolis has this sod-busting spirit," Roscoe says. "It's like a frontier town in that respect--there's always more environment out there to despoil and you don't have to worry about saving resources." While preservationists are comparing the prospect of a razed Guthrie to that of the much-rued demolition of the Metropolitan Building, that comparison doesn't do the Guthrie justice, he adds. "Outside of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Metropolitan was just another fine old Romanesque building. The Guthrie is known the world over--it's a world-class building."

Back at Eli's, Metsa and other demolition opponents finish their drinks and meals and, leaflets in hand, head off to the Guthrie. On this night, in conjunction with Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange, the theater is hosting a fundraiser for the construction of a Buddhist temple. It's a high-end affair--top tickets go for $500 a piece--and there is hope of recruiting some deep pockets to the cause of saving the theater. After assembling at the Guthrie's Vineland Place entrance, the troops spread out to the nearby street corners and parking lots. In an earlier leafleting effort, they say, they were shooed away from the front lobby.

Stephanie Klein, an industrial psychologist and theater buff who joined SavetheGuthrie after learning about the group's efforts from a friend, corners a well-heeled middle-aged couple as they exit the theater. She politely asks whether they would like to learn more about the group's efforts, and proffers the literature. The woman accepts the leaflet but doesn't bother to pause or ask for further information or make more than passing eye contact. "I'm afraid it's a lost cause," she says, as she hurries off into the night. "No, it's not," Klein responds quietly before heading off to the parking lot to tuck the leaflets on windshields.

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