Embers was chosen as an example of Hampton's fondness for adaptations (it's based on a Sándor Márai novel) and as a modest third piece to go with the ever-growing Appomattox. "Financially, we could not afford to do three big shows," says Dowling, who will direct the production.

Of course, love it or hate it — and there are those on both sides — the new Guthrie building may be the signature change from the Dowling years.

"By and large, we have a building that works. I've been involved in a lot of theaters that don't work. The Abbey doesn't work. The backstage at the National in London is appalling as well," Dowling says. "When we came to build here, it was vital to get the backstage right."

Joe Dowling
Ann Marsden
Joe Dowling

"Jean Nouvel's primary focus was on how to capture the views of the Mississippi River. He wasn't going to argue with us on the area of how the backstage works," Dowling says. "When I see hundreds of people on a Saturday afternoon walk on the endless bridge or wander around and take architectural tours, I think we got it right. The public spaces are highly popular, and the backstage, we are in pretty good shape."

Then again, Dowling isn't all that concerned about legacy. "It doesn't occupy one moment of my day. Like every other period, there is good and bad. There are mixed fortunes. It is inevitable. There isn't a magic bullet." 

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