Nicolas Kent

Worth a Billion

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 by Nicolas Kent

We have just done our first week in Minneapolis, blessed by great weather and standing ovations again for the Saturday and Sunday trilogy days. The Guthrie is a huge Jean Nouvel building on the banks of the Mississippi. The theatre itself even boasts an endless bridge which cantilevers out from the foyer between its two large theatres towards the river (which is in full flood after the heavy September rains). The theatre has an annual budget of $25million and employs over 300 people; it seems rather larger than the National and certainly has more glass (so much so that I even managed to almost knock myself out by colliding with a window – it and I still bear the scars!).

It was a rush to get the set and all three plays up each evening last week, but by the weekend trilogies we had got things right, and the response of the audiences was incredibly rewarding. We even got the Mark Sedwill piece into the play on Friday – 4 days after Christina Lamb had done it for us. Again and again I have been profusely thanked for bringing such an important piece of theatre here – one man sat through the whole trilogy twice this weekend! The people here are fantastically warm and friendly and we are all enjoying the warm weather, and the beautiful Autumn colours.

There was a donor’s dinner on Saturday, sprinkled with a few billionaires – a necessity in America when running a theatre this big; there were a number of speeches and I had to speak and was very warmly received. I made a plea for more money for experimentation and new writing here (where the studio theatre is moth-balled) and it went down well – so hopefully a few million will trickle in next month! They had to raise a mere $125 million just to build the theatre which they raised in private donations in a couple of years – with the cuts coming I just wish it were that easy in London.

On the political front I just got an email from the Nato spokesman in Kabul saying that General Petraeus would answer our questions if I could email them to him. Apparently he is doing an interview with Sir David Frost this weekend and he might be able to tack them on to that. I brain-stormed our questions over the phone with Christina Lamb, and the editor of The Times even contributed a rather good one by email – ‘What does victory in Afghanistan look like?’ – so let’s see what the weekend brings. On that note it was heartening to hear the news today that the Karzai government is seriously in negotiations with the Taliban Quetta Shura – let’s hope.

On Monday and Tuesday the cast had a well-deserved rest and most of us went off ten pin bowling last night. Tonight the plays resume and there is an audience discussion afterwards, and tomorrow Lee Blessing flies in to see his play WOOD FOR THE FIRE for the first time – he is a native of this city and they are very proud of him. I leave for New York this weekend to take a look at the theatre where we will be playing together with the lighting designer, and then on to London for two weeks while Indhu Rubasingham sees the company into Berkeley, where I believe we are sold out – hooray!