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Offstage Voices

Offstage Voices

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Life in Twin Cities Theater

Author Peg Guilfoyle, Foreword by Sally Wingert

Minnesota Historical Society Press (September 15, 2015)

An inside look at Twin Cities theater and how Minneapolis–St. Paul became home to one of the nation’s most vibrant and innovative theatrical communities.


In 1969, the Village Voice described Minneapolis as “America’s second theater city after New York.” In the forty-plus years since, the theatrical offerings of Minneapolis and St. Paul have only grown—everything from world-renowned venues to independent stages and innovative festivals—and the Twin Cities hold a prominent place in the national theater scene today. In Offstage Voices, author Peg Guilfoyle provides an in-depth look at this vibrant world and offers fascinating insights into what it takes to put on a production, from first script to closing night, and what it takes to make a living in Twin Cities theater.

Firsthand stories from practitioners of the art take you behind the scenes at a wide range of theaters, including the Guthrie, the Playwrights’ Center, Ten Thousand Things, Park Square Theatre, Mixed Blood, Penumbra, Theater Latté Da, Mu Performing Arts, the Minnesota Fringe Festival, and many more. Extensive interviews with actors, artistic directors, designers, and playwrights reveal rich perspectives on the at times turbulent, always passionate world of the theater. Guilfoyle brings together these myriad experiences to explore why and how the Twin Cities have established such a strong and well-regarded theatrical community over the last four decades.

Featuring the voices of forty theater professionals, including actors Sally Wingert, Tyler Michaels, T. Mychael Rambo, Anna Sundberg, Ricardo Vazquez, and Bradley Greenwald, artistic directors Jack Reuler (Mixed Blood), Randy Reyes (Mu Performing Arts) , Richard Cook (Park Square Theatre), Michelle Hensley (Ten Thousand Things), Peter Brosius (Children’s Theater Company), Lou and Sarah Bellamy (Penumbra Theatre) and Peter Rothstein (Theater Latte Da), directors Joel Sass and Bain Boehlke (Jungle Theater), playwrights Kira Obolensky and Aditi Kapil, and designers.

Also of interest:
MNopedia: Guthrie Theater, Theater Mu, Mixed Blood Theater, Pangea World Theater

Author information

Peg Guilfoyle spent ten years as production stage manager and production manager for artistic directors Liviu Ciulei and Garland Wright at the Guthrie Theater. She has been the producing director for the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance at the University of Minnesota and managing director of the Minnesota Centennial Showboat on Harriet Island. She has been a freelance stage and production manager for the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Mixed Blood Theatre, Denver Center Theatre Company, Arizona Theatre Company, and Elitch Theatre Company star stock, and has consulted as an arts manager for the University of Minnesota.

She is the author of The Guthrie Theater: Images, History and Inside Stories, for which she won the Midwest Book Award, and other regional history books. Her company, Peg Projects, Inc., has produced histories for Camp du Nord YMCA, Northern Star Boy Scout Council, Gustavus Adolphus College, Plymouth Congregational Church, and the Basilica of Saint Mary; these books have won numerous awards, including the Minnesota Book Award.

Peg lives in downtown St. Paul with husband John Baillie, with whom she co-owns Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo.

The author is available for readings, speaking engagements, and book clubs, and for book project consultations. Visit for additional information.

Sally Wingert has been a leading performer in Twin Cities theater since the 1980s, gracing the stages of the Guthrie Theater, Mixed Blood Theatre, Ten Thousand Things, and many other local institutions. She was named the 2013 Star Tribune Artist of the Year.

Reviews and news

“Captures the pulse and temperature of our theater world.” From the foreword by Sally Wingert

“If you’re curious about theater and how it works, this is the book for you.” Sheila Livingston, Guthrie Theater

“The Twin Cities theater community is one of the most vibrant in the nation. These stories from our most significant artists are an excellent resource for students (and their parents).” Marcus Dilliard, Chair, Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, University of Minnesota

In the Media:

City Pages
Pioneer Press
Secrets of the City
The Line Media Part 1
The Line Media Part 2


The Line Media Part 1
The Line Media Part 2

Lives in Twin Cities Theater (Excerpts from Offstage Voices)

Lighting designer Marcus Dilliard came to the theater after dabbling in studies as a biologist and an electrical engineer, but by the time he settled on the theater, he had let go of everything else. He says of his decision, It was the fact that it [theater] was constantly mysterious. It felt like something you could dig into for a long, long time and not understand, and not get bored with. There was a long way to go with it.”

As Illusion Theater’s Bonnie Morris explains, people in the theater understand that they are supposed to create and that one of its pleasures is to create with other people. “In the work world,” she says, “not everybody gets to be in a team, or in a collaborative group, where you’re all working towards the same aim. We all believe that together we’re going to make something that’s bigger than anything that any one of us could create.”

Playwright Aditi Kapil has a clear idea of what theater is for and reflects that belief in every work she writes: “What the arts in a healthy society do is put us in dialogue with each other about things that are deep. The things we talk about are things that lay in the area of the soul and the subconscious and feelings and human connectivity.

Actor Anna Sundberg’s father is a pastor and, although she says she has never felt very religious, she thinks they are in some ways in the same business. “I asked him once why he was called and I could have written down verbatim everything he said and it was why I do theater. A lot of us are here searching for the same thing. Why are we here? What does it mean to be a human being? How do we connect to other people? What does it mean to make mistakes and fail and struggle?”
“Why do we keep doing this?” she asks. It’s mostly to figure out what we’re doing. Most of us just want to feel like we’re not alone. When I watch a great play, I feel I’m not alone.”

Actor and director Randy Reyes says that he’d be happy to “be in rehearsal forever. It’s the process of discovery: learning and company building and the exchange of stories. We get to analyze humanity and unpack humanity. No one can bother us and we can fail freely as we try to accomplish something that’s impossible; it’s an impossible task to tell the story ‘right.’ So it’s the pursuit of telling it the best that you can.”

“We are aware of [audience members],” says actor and writer Bradley Greenwald. “And we need them. We all need to be in the same room. They’re not watching a movie, and we’re not in a rehearsal room; we’re all there together, which is the beauty of communally shared performing arts.”

At Penumbra, co–artistic director Sarah Bellamy enjoys standing in the house during performances. “I love to watch the audience watch the play. I love seeing them lean forward, I love seeing their brows furrow. I love it when they erupt in laughter. I love it when I see someone pull a Kleenex from their purse. And I love watching them leave the theater, when I can see how they’ve reacted. They’re usually very talkative, or they’re really silent because they are emotionally processing.”

Playwright Kira Obolensky believes that the respect afforded to artists and theater people in the Twin Cities is not necessarily found in other communities. “There are certain places in the country where I just say I’m a writer,” she explains, “because if you define yourself as a playwright, you might just as well have announced that you make your own shoes. But here in the Cities, I can say I’m a playwright. I think that’s because there’s such a good theater community and such good people.”

  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 224 pages
  • 50 B&W Photos, Index, Bibliography
  • 7 x 9 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873519700

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