Tyrone Guthrie

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Tyrone Guthrie
Tyrone Guthrie.jpg
Born (1900-07-02)2 July 1900
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England
Died 15 May 1971(1971-05-15) (aged 70)
Newbliss, County Monaghan, Republic of Ireland

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.

Early life[edit]

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.

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.

Career[edit]

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.

During the period from 1929 to 1933 he directed at various theatres, including a production of Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author in 1932. During 1933–1934, and 1936–1945 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.[2]

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

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[edit]

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.[3][4] In 1963, he founded the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, designed by Ralph Rapson.

Legacy[edit]

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'".[5] 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..."[6]

Guthrie wrote two major books about the creation of effective drama: Theatre Prospect (1932)[7] and A Life in the Theatre (1959).[8]

Queen's University Belfast[edit]

He was Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast (1963–70).[9] On 15 September 2010 a blue plaque in his memory was unveiled at the BBC in Belfast by the Ulster History Circle.

Personal life[edit]

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. He is buried in the graveyard of Aghabog Church of Ireland in Newbliss.[10]

Quotations[edit]

On being tall: 'If you're very tall it's not just rude boys who feel entitled to pass remarks. Perfect strangers in pubs are always coming up and saying, "Me and my friends are just having a bet. Just how tall are you?" Women to whom one has just been introduced think that it breaks the ice if they scream, "Goodness, you're tall!' How would they like it if I broke the ice first, by screaming, "Goodness, what thick ankles!" or "Goodness what a bust!" — Sir Tyrone Guthrie, In Various Directions.

On the Shakespeare Authorship Question and Stratford, England's tourist business: "But what if it turns out, as it just possibly might, that William Shakespeare of Stratford was not the author of the plays ascribed to him? There is a theory, advanced by reputable scholars, seriously and, in my opinion, plausibly, that Shakespeare merely lent his name as a cover for the literary activities of another person, perhaps the Earl of Oxford. If, by some terrible chance, this theory should be proved, then straightway Stratford's tourist business would dwindle. It would become just one more, and honestly not one in the first ten, of England's picturesque small towns."[11]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Forsyth, James (1976). Tyrone Guthrie. London: Hamish Hamilton. 
  • Guthrie, Tyrone (1932). Theatre Prospect. London: Wishart. OCLC 1903289. 
  • Guthrie, Tyrone; Davies, Robertson; Macdonald, Grant (1953). Renown at Stratford; A Record of the Shakespeare Festival in Canada, 1953. Toronto: Clark, Irwin. OCLC 6122929. 
  • Guthrie, Tyrone (1959). A Life in the Theatre. New York: McGraw-Hill. OCLC 331308. 
  • Guthrie, Tyrone (1964). A New Theatre. New York: McGraw-Hill. OCLC 331078. 
  • Guthrie, Tyrone (1965). In Various Directions. New York: Macmillan. OCLC 711657. 
  • Guthrie, Tyrone (1971). Tyrone Guthrie on Acting. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-73832-8. 
  • Rossi, Alfred (1970). Minneapolis Rehearsals: Tyrone Guthrie Directs Hamlet. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-01719-6. 
  • Rossi, Alfred (1977). Astonish Us in the Morning: Tyrone Guthrie Remembered. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-128860-6. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Obituaries: Sir Willlam Tyrone Power". The Times. 26 July 1911. p. 11. 
  2. ^ Romance of Canada series
  3. ^ www.canadianshakespeares.ca/multimedia/pdf/stratford.pdf
  4. ^ The Stratford Festival: The First 50 Years — Arts and Entertainment — CBC Archives
  5. ^ James Forsyth (1976) Tyrone Guthrie: The Authorized Biography, Hamish Hamilton, London ISBN 978-0241894712
  6. ^ Peter Hall's Diaries: The Story of a Dramatic Battle (1983) Harper & Row
  7. ^ Tyrone Guthrie (132) Theatre Prospect, Wishart & Co., London
  8. ^ Tyrone Guthrie (1959) A Life in the Theatre, McGraw-Hill, Columbus, OH
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Obituary, Tyrone Guthrie, Palm Beach Post, May 16, 1971
  11. ^ Tyrone Guthrie (22 April 1962). "New York Times Magazine". The New York Times. pp. 12, 60–61. 

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Field Marshal the Viscount Alanbrooke
Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast
1963–1970
Succeeded by
Lord Ashby of Brandon