Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The 2013 Ivey Awards at the State Theater

It's the morning after the Ivey Awards, and I have a happiness hangover. It was another great night of celebrating the Twin Cities theater community, through awards given out to select artists and productions, performances from this year's shows, and another fun post-show party hob-nobbing with some of my favorite theater artists. There's nothing better than introducing myself to one of them as "Jill from Cherry and Spoon" and having them not only know who I am, but seem almost as excited to meet me as I am to meet them! It's so lovely to hear that my work here is appreciated, so thank you to everyone I met. I look forward to seeing more of your work in the coming year.

Let's get right down to it. Twelve Ivey Awards were presented this year (to 11 productions, 7 of which I saw), plus the Emerging Artist and Lifetime Achievement Awards. Last year's winners and representatives from corporate sponsors served as presenters. Returning host, the delightfully funny Shanan Custer, was joined by the always entertaining Randy Reyes (Artistic Director of Mu Performing Arts). In the same way I would like Neil Patrick Harris to host every televised awards show, I think Shanan and Randy should host the Iveys every year! There are no two better people to guide us through this night.

The 2013 Ivey Award recipients are (for shows that I've seen, click on the title to read my thoughts about the show):

  • Peter Brosius for his direction of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie at Children's Theatre Company.
  • Raymond Berg for the musical direction of this summer's fantastic musical hit Urinetown at the Jungle Theater.
  • The uber talented cast of Clybourne Park at the Guthrie.
  • Playwriting team Katherine Glover, Alissa M. Shellito, and Jeri Weiss for Freshwater Theatre Goes Back to High School at Freshwater Theatre Company.
  • Milly and Tillie at Open Eye Figure Theatre (overall excellence).
  • Michael Croswell for sound design of Frank Theatre's crazy brilliant one-man-show Misterman (I was kind of hoping for an Ivey for John Catron, but I'll take this).
  • Michael Matthew Ferrell for his delightful choreography of Singin' in the Rain at Bloomington Civic Theater (I got to hold his Ivey!).
  • The incredibly smart and funny and touching In the Next Room at the Jungle Theater (overall excellence).
  • Peter Beard and James Napoleon Stone for their direction of Hamlet at Theare Coup d'Etat.
  • A very deserving Craig Johnson for playing the title role in Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde at Walking Shadow Theatre Company.
  • Ivey host Shanan Custer and Carolyn Pool for their utterly charming show 2 Sugars, Room for Cream (which you can see next month at the Jerome Hill Theater).
  • Dean Holt for playing the mouse in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie at Children's Theatre Company.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear Ricardo Vazquez announced as this year's Emerging Artist. I think he's super-talented (e.g., as Gabe in Mixed Blood's Next to Normal, filling the space at Open Book with his powerful voice in The Seven for TTT, and directing a really cool musical at the Fringe). I'm looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for this emerging artist.

Prolific and talented local playwright Jeffrey Hatcher won this year's Lifetime Achievement Award and gave a very funny speech deserving of an award-winning playwright. I've seen many of his plays over the last few years, my favorites of which include lat year's Ivey-winner Compleat Female Stage Beauty and Turn of the Screw. Whenver I see Jeffrey Hatcher's name on a play, I know it's going to be good.

In between all of these awards we were treated to performances from past, present, and upcoming productions (accompanied by the fantastic band led by music director extraordinaire Denise Prosek) that really showed off the diverse talent in this abundantly rich theater town:

  • A celebratory tone was set by the opening number, a selection from Illusion Theater's musical review Love & Marriage, featuring cast members from last year's original and this year's update, "What a Difference a Year Makes," now playing at Illusion (I'm seeing it next week).
  • We were treated to an excerpt from one of the trilogy of plays Displaced Hindu Gods, opening next weekend at Mixed Blood. A stand-up comedy routine, accompanied by Ivey Award-winning actor Peter Christian Hansen on electric guitar (as host Randy said, "what the what?").
  • I was very excited to see an encore of Nautilus Music-Theater's Ordinary Days, which I had just seen the day before and completely fell in love with. It's playing for two more weekends - go see it!
  • Miss Minnesota Rebecca Yeh, who recently won Miss America's talent competition, played a lovely song on the violin as we remembered local theater artists we lost in the last year.
  • The Ivey Award-winning cast of Clybourne Park performed a scene from the modern-day second act of the play (and I was slightly relieved when the scene ended just before the telling of offensive jokes began!).
  • Mike Fotis and Lauren Anderson performed a ridiculous (in a good way) super-hero skit incorporating the names of the corporate sponsors.
  • I was so thrilled that Yellow Tree Theatre's new original musical Stay Tuned made an appearance at the Ivey's, with show creators and performers Blake Thomas, Mary Fox, and Andy Frye presenting a scene and a song from the fictional radio show. Most of the evening was pretty high energy and almost frantic with excitement, so "Love Will Lift You Up" was a welcome calm moment, a chance to take a breath, enjoy the simple beauty of the song, and recharge for the excitement of the evening yet to come. (Blake Thomas' music is available on iTunes, I highly recommend Flatlands for a start.)
  • I cannot think of a better closing number than the super fun and high energy "Run, Freedom, Run" from the Ivey Award-winning production of Urinetown, performed by this talented cast. A great end to the show that fired us up for the post-show party!

And that's it, another Ivey Awards has come and gone, and some pretty incredibly theater too. I am so grateful to be a part of this theater community and to have the privilege to witness the great work of our local Minnesota theater artists. Now let's go see some local theater!