The 9th Annual Ivey Awards

It was the Twin Cities theater community’s annual love fest last night, and I say that with great affection. I so enjoy my role in it, and it’s a pleasure to watch all of it come together with rousing cheers, genuine gratitude and a great show. Decked out in full-length gowns (not all of them on women), velvet jackets or funky vintage costumes, for one night each year, this town’s love of live theater takes over downtown Minneapolis, and it feels good.

Jeffrey Hatcher, Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

Jeffrey Hatcher, Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

Writer and performer Shannon Custer and Theater Mu’s new Artistic Director Randy Reyes shared emcee duties, balancing scripted material and adlibs out of nowhere with sparkling comic timing. Nothing uptight about this show – Reyes set up a running poop joke that I don’t think anyone saw coming.

Performances between the awards gave us just a splinter of the larger structure that was this past year’s theater season: Nautilus Music Theater with a scene from Ordinary Days; “Run, Freedom, Run” from the Jungle Theater’s production of Urinetown; new to the Ivey stage, Yellow Tree Theatre did a number from a new musical Stay Tuned. And there were more, and they were all good. Honestly, for entertainment value I’d rather watch the Ivey’s than the Oscars.

Each awards show, Ivey honors a certain segment among theater practitioners, this year choosing playwrights. The Playwright’s Center Artistic Director Jeremy Cohen had to shout his way through his tribute to playwrights, with cheers erupting from one corner of the State Theater, and then another, as the names of local playwrights scrolled by on the big screen. But shout he did, finishing with, “Produce new work! If it’s good, they will f-ing come! (A communal roar of approval.)

One might think all this cheering seems a little too much like a high school graduation, but realize the hours, weeks, months and even years of hard work by hundreds – if not thousands – of committed theater artists and supporters who make the cultural life of the Twin Cities beat with a steady heart. Once a year, let them holler all they want, I say!

Here are the award recipients:


– In the Next Room, Jungle Theater: Overall Excellence

– Milly & Tillie, Open Eye Figure Theatre: Overall Excellence

Individual Recognition

– Peter Beard & James Napoleon Stone, Directing, Hamlet (Theatre Coup d’Etat)

– Raymond Berg, Musical Direction, Urinetown: The Musical (Jungle Theater)

– Peter Brosius, Directing, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (Children’s Theatre Company)

– Michael Croswell, Sound Design, Misterman (Frank Theatre)

– Ensemble, Acting, Clybourne Park (Guthrie Theater)

– Ensemble, Acting, Two Sugars, Room for Cream (Hennepin Theatre Trust)

– Michael Matthew Ferrell, Choreography, Singin’ in the Rain (Bloomington Civic Theatre)

– Katherine Glover, Alissa M. Shellito & Jeri Weiss, Playwrighting, Freshwater Theatre Goes Back to High School (Freshwater Theatre Company)

– Dean Holt, Acting, If You Give a Mouse a Cooking (Children’s Theatre Company)

– Craig Johnson, Acting, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde (Walking Shadow Theatre Company)

Ricardo Vazquez, Emerging Artist Award recipient

Ricardo Vazquez, Emerging Artist Award recipient

Actor and writer, Ricardo Vázquez received this year’s Emerging Artist Award. In Minnesota he has appeared on stage at Mixed Blood Theatre, Park Square Theatre and with Ten Thousand Things and Pangea World  Theatre/Teatro del Pueblo. He recently received a Many Voices Fellowship from The Playwright’s Center.

Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. His plays are well known to Minnesota audiences, but his credits also include many Broadway, off-Broadway, regional theater productions, television scripts and screenplays. His recent work, Compleat Female Stage Beauty, was recognized with an Ivey Award last year. Locally, the Illusion Theater has commissioned and/or staged 12 Hatcher plays, and he has written or adapted several scripts for the Guthrie Theater.

The Iveys handle awards in a unique way; there are no set categories or number of awards, other than the Lifetime Achievement and Emerging Artist awards. Ivey evaluators are volunteers from the general public who just love going to theater and are willing to share their recommendations. It couldn’t be more egalitarian. Each participating theater receives a vote to determine the Lifetime Achievement and Emerging Artist awards.



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