Tyrone Guthrie

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Sir Tyrone Guthrie
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William Tyrone Guthrie

(1900-07-02)2 July 1900
Died15 May 1971(1971-05-15) (aged 70)
OccupationTheatrical director

Sir William Tyrone Guthrie (2 July 1900 15 May 1971) was an English theatrical director instrumental in the founding of the Stratford Festival of Canada, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at his family's ancestral home, Annaghmakerrig, near Newbliss in County Monaghan, Ireland.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Guthrie Theater center for theater performance, production, education, and professional training in Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Guthrie Theater, founded in 1963, is a center for theater performance, production, education, and professional training in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The concept of the theater was born in 1959 in a series of discussions between Sir Tyrone Guthrie, Oliver Rea and Peter Zeisler. Disenchanted with Broadway, they intended to form a theater with a resident acting company, to perform classic plays in rotating repertory, while maintaining the highest professional standards.

Minneapolis Largest city in Minnesota

Minneapolis is the county seat of Hennepin County and the larger of the Twin Cities, the 16th-largest metropolitan area in the United States. As of 2017, Minneapolis is the largest city in the state of Minnesota and 45th-largest in the United States, with an estimated population of 422,331. The Twin Cities metropolitan area consists of Minneapolis, its neighbor Saint Paul, and suburbs which altogether contain about 3.6 million people, and is the third-largest economic center in the Midwest.


Early life

Guthrie was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, the son of Dr Thomas Guthrie (a grandson of the Scottish preacher Thomas Guthrie) and Norah Power. His mother Norah was the daughter of Sir William James Tyrone Power, Commissary-General-in-chief of the British Army from 1863 to 1869 and Martha, daughter of Dr. John Moorhead of Annaghmakerrig House and his Philadelphia-born wife, Susan (née Allibone) Humphreys. [1] His great-grandfather was the Irish actor Tyrone Power. He was also a second cousin of the Hollywood actor Tyrone Power. His sister, Susan Margaret, married his close university friend, fellow Anglo-Irishman Hubert Butler.

Royal Tunbridge Wells town in Kent, England

Royal Tunbridge Wells, previously just Tunbridge Wells, is a town in western Kent, England, 30 miles (48 km) south-east of central London, close to the border with East Sussex upon the northern edge of the High Weald, whose sandstone geology is exemplified by the rock formations at the Wellington Rocks and High Rocks.

Kent County of England

Kent is a county in South East England and one of the home counties. It borders Greater London to the north-west, Surrey to the west and East Sussex to the south-west. The county also shares borders with Essex along the estuary of the River Thames, and with the French department of Pas-de-Calais through the Channel Tunnel. The county town is Maidstone.

Scottish people ethnic inhabitants of Scotland

The Scottish people or Scots, are a nation and Celtic ethnic group native to Scotland. Historically, they emerged from an amalgamation of two Celtic-speaking peoples, the Picts and Gaels, who founded the Kingdom of Scotland in the 9th century. Later, the neighbouring Celtic-speaking Cumbrians, as well as Germanic-speaking Anglo-Saxons and Norse, were incorporated into the Scottish nation.

He received a degree in history at Oxford University, where he was active in student theatre, and worked for a season at the newly established Oxford Playhouse.

Oxford Playhouse theatre in Oxford, England

Oxford Playhouse is an independent theatre designed by Sir Edward Maufe. It is situated in Beaumont Street, Oxford, opposite the Ashmolean Museum.


In 1924 Guthrie joined the BBC as a broadcaster and began to produce plays for radio. This led to a year directing for the stage with the Scottish National Players, before returning to the BBC to become one of the first writers to create plays designed for radio performance.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters are at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London, and it is the world's oldest national broadcasting organisation and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees. It employs over 20,950 staff in total, 16,672 of whom are in public sector broadcasting. The total number of staff is 35,402 when part-time, flexible, and fixed-contract staff are included.

Radio drama dramatized, purely acoustic performance

Radio drama is a dramatised, purely acoustic performance. With no visual component, radio drama depends on dialogue, music and sound effects to help the listener imagine the characters and story: "It is auditory in the physical dimension but equally powerful as a visual force in the psychological dimension." Radio drama includes plays specifically written for radio, docudrama, dramatized works of fiction, as well as plays originally written for the theatre, including musical theatre and opera.

During the period from 1929 to 1933 he directed at various theatres, including the Cambridge Festival Theatre in 1929 [2] and a production of Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author at the Westminster Theatre in 1932. During 19331934, and 19361945 he was director of the Shakespeare Repertory Company. While in Montreal, Guthrie produced the Romance of Canada series of radio plays for recalling epic moments in Canadian history. The series was broadcast on the Canadian National Railway radio network. [3]

Luigi Pirandello Italian writer

Luigi Pirandello was an Italian dramatist, novelist, poet, and short story writer whose greatest contributions were his plays. He was awarded the 1934 Nobel Prize in Literature for "his almost magical power to turn psychological analysis into good theatre." Pirandello's works include novels, hundreds of short stories, and about 40 plays, some of which are written in Sicilian. Pirandello's tragic farces are often seen as forerunners of the Theatre of the Absurd.

Six Characters in Search of an Author is an Italian play by Luigi Pirandello, written and first performed in 1921. An absurdist metatheatrical play about the relationship among authors, their characters, and theatre practitioners, it premiered at the Teatro Valle in Rome to a mixed reception, with shouts from the audience of "Manicomio!" ("Madhouse!") and "Incommensurabile!" ("Incommensurable!"), a reaction to the play's illogical progression. Reception improved at subsequent performances, especially after Pirandello provided for the play's third edition, published in 1925, a foreword clarifying its structure and ideas.

The Westminster Theatre was a London theatre, on Palace Street in Westminster. It was originally built as the Charlotte Chapel in 1766, which was altered and given a new frontage for use as a cinema from 1924 onwards. It finally became a theatre in 1931 after radical alterations. By the time it fell out of use in the late 20th century, it had been remodelled twice more and had three storeys, a 560-seat main house and a 100-seat studio theatre.

Hubert Butler translated the text for Guthrie's 1934 production of Anton Chekhov's Cherry Orchard , for perhaps its first English-language production.

Hubert Marshal Butler was an Irish essayist who wrote on a wide range of topics, from local history and archaeology to the political and religious affairs of eastern Europe before and during World War II. He also traveled to Nazi Austria on his own initiative and at his own expense and helped save Jewish people from being sent to concentration camps.

Anton Chekhov Russian dramatist, author and physician

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a Russian playwright and short-story writer, who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short fiction in history. His career as a playwright produced four classics, and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Along with Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg, Chekhov is often referred to as one of the three seminal figures in the birth of early modernism in the theatre. Chekhov practiced as a medical doctor throughout most of his literary career: "Medicine is my lawful wife", he once said, "and literature is my mistress."

<i>The Cherry Orchard</i> Play by Anton Chekhov

The Cherry Orchard is the last play by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. Written in 1903, it was first published by Znaniye, and came out as a separate edition later that year in Saint Petersburg, via A.F. Marks Publishers. It opened at the Moscow Art Theatre on 17 January 1904 in a production directed by Konstantin Stanislavski. Chekhov described the play as a comedy, with some elements of farce, though Stanislavski treated it as a tragedy. Since its first production, directors have contended with its dual nature. It is often identified as one of the three or four outstanding plays by Chekhov, along with The Seagull, Three Sisters, and Uncle Vanya.

In the 1940s Guthrie began to direct operas, to critical acclaim, including a realistic Carmen at Sadler's Wells and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He also returned to Scotland where, with James Bridie in 1948, he staged the first modern adaptation, by Robert Kemp, of Sir David Lyndsay's grand-scale medieval comedy Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis for the Second Edinburgh International Festival; a landmark event in the modern revival of Scottish theatre. Staged in the city's General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland on the Mound, specially adapted for the occasion, it was here that Guthrie's hallmark thrust stage first proved its full worth.

Stratford Festival of Canada

In 1953, he was invited to help launch the Stratford Festival of Canada. Intrigued with the idea of starting a Shakespeare theatre in a remote Canadian location, he enlisted Tanya Moiseiwitsch to further develop his thrust stage design, successfully improvised in Edinburgh, and actors Alec Guinness and Irene Worth to star in the inaugural production of Richard III . All performances in the first seasons took place in a large tent on the banks of the Avon River. He remained as Artistic Director for three seasons, and his work at Stratford had a strong influence in the development of Canadian theatre. [4] [5] Guthrie produced Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore in 1960 and The Pirates of Penzance in 1961, which were televised in Canada and also brought to the Phoenix Theatre in New York and on tour in the US. In 1962, as soon as the Gilbert and Sullivan copyrights expired, he brought these productions to Britain; they soon played at Her Majesty's Theatre and were broadcast by the BBC. They were among the first Savoy opera productions in Britain not authorized by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. [6]

Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota

In 1963, he founded the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, designed by Ralph Rapson. He published a small invitation in 1959 in the drama page of The New York Times soliciting communities' interest and involvement in a resident theater. From that beginning, Twin Cities was chosen and the Guthrie Theater was established, with construction being completed in 1963. [7] Tyrone Guthrie served as Artistic Director until 1966 and continued to direct at the theater he founded until 1969, two years before his death.


In the prologue to his biography James Forsyth wrote, "Anti-Broadway, anti-West End, anti everything implied in the term 'Legitimate Theatre', he ended up with a legitimate claim to the title of 'most important, British-born theatre director of his time'". [8] Peter Hall wrote, "Among the great originators in British Theatre...Guthrie was a towering figure in every sense. He blazed a trail for the subsidised theatre of the sixties. He showed how to run a company and administer a theatre. And he was a brilliant and at times great director..." [9]

Guthrie wrote two major books about the creation of effective drama: Theatre Prospect (1932) [10] and A Life in the Theatre (1959). [11]

Queen's University Belfast

He was Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast (1963–70). [12] On 15 September 2010 a blue plaque in his memory was unveiled at the BBC in Belfast by the Ulster History Circle.

Personal life

In 1931 Guthrie married Judith Bretherton, who survived him by only a year. He was knighted in 1961, and died a decade later at his home, Annaghmakerrig, in Newbliss, County Monaghan, Ireland, aged 70, from undisclosed causes. His body was buried in the graveyard of Aghabog Church of Ireland, in Newbliss. [13]


See also

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  1. "Obituaries: Sir Willlam Tyrone Power". The Times. 26 July 1911. p. 11.
  2. Schumach, Murray (16 May 1971). "Sir Tyrone Guthrie Dies at 70; Director and Scholar of Stage". New York Times. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  3. Romance of Canada series [ permanent dead link ] not found 24 March 2016
  4. "Stratford Shakespearean Festival, 1953 season" (PDF). p. 17. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  5. The Stratford Festival: The First 50 Years Arts and Entertainment CBC Archives
  6. Berger, Leon. "Obituary: Marion Studholme", Gilbert and Sullivan News, The Gilbert and Sullivan Society (London), Vol. V, No. 10, Spring 2016, p. 19
  7. "Guthrie website, History. Accessed July 9, 2007". Archived from the original on 23 April 2007.
  8. James Forsyth (1976) Tyrone Guthrie: The Authorized Biography, Hamish Hamilton, London ISBN   978-0241894712
  9. Peter Hall's Diaries: The Story of a Dramatic Battle (1983) Harper & Row
  10. Tyrone Guthrie (132) Theatre Prospect, Wishart & Co., London
  11. Tyrone Guthrie (1959) A Life in the Theatre, McGraw-Hill, Columbus, OH
  12. Brian Walker and Alf McCreary (1994). Degrees of Excellence: The Story of Queen's, Belfast, 1845–1995. Belfast: Queen's University Belfast. ISBN   0-85389-535-X.
  13. Obituary, Tyrone Guthrie, Palm Beach Post, May 16, 1971
Academic offices
Preceded by
Field Marshal the Viscount Alanbrooke
Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast
Succeeded by
Lord Ashby of Brandon