All Sources > The Manitou Messenger (DA-MM) > The Manitou Messenger (1916-2014) > 1969 > No. 20, Vol. 82
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Article TitleGuthrie Guerilla Theatre
Author(s)David Hvistendahl
SourceThe Manitou Messenger (1916-2014),  No. 20,  Vol.082, November  17, 1969, page(s): 5
Place of PublicationNorthfield, United States
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Guthrie Guerilla Theatre

Author: David Hvistendahl

A guerilla theater group in Minneapolis abandoned the streets for the bright lights of the stage during the Moratorium, briefly upstaging the Minnesota Theatre Company.

The political melodrama surreptitiously opened during the third act of Uncle Vanya Friday night at the Guthrie Theatre. A shill whistle, followed by shouts and vocal machine gun fire, interrupted Yelena Andreievna's solioquy.

Seven male and female Viet Cong, disguised as long-haired street people, infiltrated the theatre from two doors directly in front of the proscenium. U. S. Marines, dressed as revolutionary freaks, intervened from a side entrance, countering the vocal small arms fire with loud, vocal machine gun bursts.

Those in the audience familiar with Checkov's work might have thought at first that Tyrone Guthrie had exercised much poetic license in his new translation of Vanya. Since isles are used for entrances and exits during the production, it wasn't completely clear to the audience what was happening until the VC were mowed down on the lower edge of the proscenium by the Marines.

A Viet Cong girl in a buckskin jacket resurrected herself from an invisible barbed-wire death bed and announced, "You have just been interrupted by an imaginary killing, while the real killing continues to go on in Vietnam right now..."

She didn't get a chance to finish her solioquy before she was in turn interrupted by protests from the audience—boos, hisses, and a few programs were directed towards the interloping Thespians.

The actress-turned-spectator on stage, Patricia Conolly, watched the playlet with a bemused, then amused expression on her face. As the group made a rather hasty retreat to a side exit to avoid possible physical statements from angry middle-aged men in the front rows and a stage hand that had menacingly appeared on the scene, she began to laugh and had to turn her back on the audience to get back into character.

The Marines yelled out war cries heavily laden with trite irony as they retreated, such as, "Kill the Commies! Kill the Gooks! Kill! Kill! Kill! A spectator replied (without ironical intent), "Kill the protestors!"—for which he received applause from the higher-priced seats. The unscheduled play undoubtedly converted several in the audience to the Spiro T. Agnew school of political thought.

The students in the audience interviewed after the play were either turned off or perplexed by the play-within-the-play. (Two bus loads of St. Olaf students and a few carloads of Carleton students witnessed the performances.) One student wearing a Moratorium button said, "I don't see how the Guthrie ties into the military-industrial complex. But I guess some people are so frustrated and determined (to stop the war) that they'll try anything."

In general, the people just didn't believe that the right to public redress of grievances entails the right to be boorish about the matter.

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