Peg Guilfoyle has spent decades in Twin Cities theater, including stints as the production manager at the Guthrie and managing director at the Centennial Showboat Theater. As a writer, her work includes a book about the Guthrie published in 2006.
Those experiences come together in Offstage Voices: Life in the Twin Cities Theater. For the Minnesota Historical Society book, Guilfoyle interviewed dozens of people.
“I had the occasion to sit down and have these intimate, lively conversations with people who work in theater. There are 40 of them, and they are all types. I got them out of the hurly burly and sat them down quietly to ask why they are here and why they are in this work. Everybody loves to step aside and think about what they do,” Guilfoyle says.
One of the threads of the book is to follow the full process of a play, from the first spark of the script through development, into production, to opening night. “After a few decades of talking to and listening to the audience, I’ve learned that people like to know how the magic happens. It is a complicated mechanism. It is endlessly interesting how it is put together,” Guilfoyle says.
Part of the challenge was winnowing the list down to 40. “We have such a large community with so many voices. There is a range of people in different parts of their careers. I never had a chance to sit down with a playwright in such a focused way. I wanted the the voices of designers on the table too,” Guilfoyle says.
Along with exploring what brought the creators to theater, Guilfoyle also examined what makes them passionate about the work. “The common thread that about everybody had was not just talent and not just skill, but also dedication to the arts,” she says.
In addition to exploring the full process and the artists' inspirations, Guilfoyle looks at what brings and keeps these people in the Twin Cities, and what has made the area such a major center for theater.
“It was in this community even before the Guthrie arrived. There was the Old Log and Theatre in the Round and Dudley Riggs. There was a strong philanthropic community and a strong education community,” Guilfoyle says. “We also have wonderful audiences here. There are niches and we have the people to come and see them.”
Guilfoyle included an annotated list of 55 area theaters. “It’s a list there for the browsing. This is a very browse-worthy community, so I wrote a chapter for the audience and the way people can navigate the vast array of theater,” she says.
Two events are scheduled to celebrate the release of the book. These will include a talk, not just from Guilfoyle, but also words from some of the people who are profiled.
“This book really illuminates the fact that it takes many many many decisions, seen and unseen, to make theater. Of everything a person sees, there is nothing accidental: the gestural choices, the fabric of a costume, the angle of the light, or the way the sound design fits in. All of that has been carefully assembled and that attempts to be faithful to the purpose of the playwright,” Guilfoyle says.
IF YOU GO:
Reception for Offstage Voices: Life int he Twin Cities Theater
7 p.m. Monday, September 14
Mill City Musuem
704 S. Second St., Minneapolis
7 p.m. Monday, September 28
Park Square Theatre
20 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul
Both events are free
Visit online for information on the events and the book.