MINNEAPOLIS – A night at the Guthrie Theater just got more affordable. As in, it could be cheaper to go to the Guthrie than to go to the movies.

“We know that the financial piece is a meaningful barrier for some cross-section of our community. And to be able to lower that meaningfully, to lower than the price of a ticket, makes us very proud,” said Guthrie Artistic Director Joseph Haj.

Haj said the reduced ticket price for select productions is just one component of an overall project – made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation – that will transform the theater’s ninth floor, and the 200-seat Dowling Studio on it, into a venue for public dialogue.

“We should always find ways to extend the theater experience to be in dialogue, to be in real conversation with our community, particularly around some pressing themes and ideas that are in our world,” Haj said.

For example, a particular event or issue may inspire an artist who then is able to bring his or her work into the theater. Before and following the performance, the community would be invited to discuss the related topic.

“Somebody once said, ‘an enemy is a person whose story you don’t know.’ And the opportunity to be able to tell some of those stories in a place that invites civic dialogue is a really important place to be,” Haj said.

The reduced ticket price was a vital part of the program, Haj said, allowing more members of the community to engage in that dialogue. The $9-rate does not currently apply to the more traditional productions at Guthrie Theater, but Haj notes many options remain available, including rush, preview and other discount tickets.