The Ivey Awards

by SOPHIE KERMAN

Aside from honoring the Twin Cities’ most hard-working and talented theater professionals, the Ivey Awards also provides reviewers and theater fans with a chance to see how they did. What must-see shows did we miss this year? And did we agree with the Ivey committee’s choices?

Here is a list of this year’s winners and some excerpts from what we had to say about them here at Aisle Say Twin Cities.

Rick Shiomi, Artistic Director of Mu Performing Arts, won a Lifetime Achievement Award for his many years of work fostering recognition of the Twin Cities many talented Asian performers. Of Mu Performing Arts’s recent production of Katie Hae Leo’s Four Destinies, ASTC said:

“The four Destinies inhabit a vivid world that is only idealistic on its glossy exterior. In a community with so many adopted children of so many different backgrounds, Leo’s play provides an important look into the particular issues surrounding adoption – both for parents hoping to help, and for children making sense of their mysterious DNA.”

Isabel Nelson won the Emerging Artist Award for her physical theater and magical storytelling (and, in a double whammy, her show Ballad of the Pale Fisherman won for Emotional Impact!). For her 2011 Outstanding Fringe Production of Red Resurrected (an ASTC Fringe favorite as well), ASTC wrote:

“The company creates a near-constant soundscape, immersing the audience in each scene through the drip of a leaky faucet or the creaks and whistles of a forest at night. Each cast member, with a different voice and physicality, adds a unique personality to the production and brings the act of storytelling to a new level (or perhaps returns it to what it once was).”

The other Ivey winners, with Aisle Say Twin Cities’ impressions (when we had the chance to see the show), are posted below:

Overall Excellence: Compleat Female Stage Beauty, Walking Shadow Theatre Company

“Vaughn embodies this fascinating character with a complexity that is nothing short of remarkable. Navigating several layers of performance… Vaughn succeeds at every level, often with staggering amounts of emotional depth and complexity.”

Overall Excellence: Spring Awakening, Theatre Latte Da

Emotional Impact: Ballad of the Pale Fisherman

“This production, which develops and deepens the original one-hour Fringe version, offers something that few other local theater companies dare to put on stage: no-frills storytelling that relies purely on the skill of the company’s actors to create a visible world on an empty stage.”

Inventive Reinterpretation: Julius Caesar, Theatre Unbound

Acting: Tracie Bennett, End of the Rainbow (Guthrie Theater)

“It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role, as Bennett not only captures Garland’s physique and mannerisms, but possesses an incredible voice. She belts out many much-beloved tunes… with a range and power that’s nothing short of stunning. Most impressive about Bennett’s performance, however, is how it transcends sheer impersonation and manages to add to our collective understanding of Garland’s public foibles and private difficulties.”

Acting: Hugh Kennedy, Buzzer (Pillsbury House Theatre)

Acting: Jody Briskey, Beyond the Rainbow: Garland at Carnegie Hall (History Theatre)

Lighting Design: Barry Browning, Dial M for Murder (Jungle Theater)

“Without a cinematographer’s camera to guide your attention, the entire stage is open to scrutiny, and the Jungle’s design team has accounted for every last detail, from the books stacked beneath the coffee table to the ivy you can just barely glimpse through the living room window. Since the plot hinges on the meticulousness of Wendice’s well-laid plans, the fun of the live performance is not only in trying to stay one step ahead of the characters’ ingeniousness, but in admiring the precision of the Jungle’s seamlessly-executed production.”

Directing: Miriam Monasch, Our Class (Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company)

Musical Direction: Joe Vass, The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer (Park Square Theatre)

There you have it, the Ivey roundup! Aisle Say Twin Cities fell a bit short when it came to reviewing musicals, but I am proud that we could weigh in on half of the winners during our very first year on the new site. Congratulations to all of the honorees and to another year of successful Twin Cities theater!

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