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BEST LOCAL IMPRESARIO Minneapolis 2005 - James Morrison

When most of us think of international theater, what comes to mind is the Walker Art Center's programming of avant-garde, experimental, and often nonsensical productions. In that grand shadow, the Guthrie Theater and its World Stage Series director James Morrison slowly grew a divergent international program, one that just wrapped up a breakthrough season and is poised to explode once the Guthrie moves to its new home. Morrison, who long split his World Stage responsibilities with a position as Guthrie communications director before a promotion last month, differs from the Walker's performing arts curator Philip Bither with an affinity for text-based, usually narrative-driven work. A penchant for contemporary retellings of legends and old stories was reflected in Morrison's 2004-05 season picks: the eerie 4.48 Psychosis, playwright Sarah Kane's pre-suicide manifesto performed by London's Royal Court Theatre, and The Notebook and The Proof, two distinct WWII-inspired "mind fucks" (Morrison's words) by Flemish company De Onderneming. Next season, World Stage presents, among other things, a new production of Macbeth that's reset in a war-torn African nation (nameless, but closely resembling postcolonial Uganda). The production features an all-black cast with one exception: a real-life white aid worker who married an African warlord inspires Lady Macbeth. The three witches take after cross-dressing Liberian combatants, those guerilla grandstanders who baffle their enemies with pink wigs and frilly dresses. "The piece is so immediate, and so shocking," said a lovesick Morrison, who fell headlong when he saw the show in Britain last fall.

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