Artist Charlinda Brewster’s Heartfelt Connection to the Guthrie
Charlinda Brewster and her father, Charles, at the Guthrie Theater on Vineland Place.
The Guthrie Theater entered my life right when tragedy struck and I lost my mother at the end of eighth grade. My dad, Charles Brewster, who worked in maintenance at the Guthrie, quickly became a single parent raising a young teenage daughter. He struggled to know what to do with me during the summer because he didn’t want to leave me home alone. The manager of the Guthrie Store at the time, Bonnie Kenney Casey, suggested that I work in the store part time to keep me busy and ease my dad’s worries. Little did I know I was about to learn some of my life’s greatest lessons.
The Guthrie quickly became more than a job; it became a home, support system and family thanks to people like David Russell, Bonnie Kenney Casey, Rose Block, Barbara Jean (“Little Barbara”) and Tom Proehl, to name a few. David and Bonnie were my first bosses, and they strengthened my work ethic, let me embrace and express my goofy side and taught me that there’s always a reason to break out into song. Rose Block and the late Barbara Jean taught me the importance of good character and that accessories are what make an outfit magnificent. Then there was the late Tom Proehl, who took personal time to advise my dad without hesitation. This is what the Guthrie was — a family where everyone offered a helping hand. My dad and I were so lucky to be surrounded by such caring and compassionate people.
I have many fond memories with my dad at the Guthrie, especially Opening Night performances. He loved to put on his Sunday best — just like the women in the play Crowns by Regina Taylor — and take me to the show. Before the performance, he’d proudly explain to me how his Guthrie family had created the sets, costumes and wigs. He loved knowing the process and had great respect for those executing it, and this insider knowledge makes me value and appreciate theater to this day. It allowed me to feel connected to the stories being told, understand the remarkable innovation and work that goes into each show and discover how theater reaches far beyond what you see onstage.
I ended up working at the Guthrie for more than a decade as a Sales Associate, Gift Store Stock Assistant, Stage Door Attendee and Usher. Along the way, I also assisted the Box Office in sending out season ticket renewal packages and worked on the marketing “street team,” telling visitors at the nearby farmers market about Guthrie shows. I grew up at the Guthrie and was working there when it transitioned from Vineland Place to its current home on the Mississippi River. Since then, I have adventured away from the Twin Cities, but the memories always bring me back. I can’t think of home without thinking of the Guthrie, no matter how much it changes and continues to grow without me.
There is saying among former Guthrie staff: “You never really leave the Guthrie.” The friendships and family I made there live on beyond its blue walls, and the connections I made with artists, staff and patrons have left an everlasting mark on my heart. I am forever grateful and honored to go from being “Charles’ daughter” — the little girl counting Christmas ornaments for store inventory — to being Charlinda Brewster, the artist selling her work at the Guthrie Store.