*A previous version of this article inaccurately said Nathaniel Fuller accepted the Guthrie’s Award for “Trouble in Mind.” It has been corrected to accurately show that Joseph Haj accepted the award.
On a beautiful, late summer evening, Minneapolitans and St. Paulites dressed in their finest and came together to celebrate their thriving arts community at the 2016 Ivey Awards.
Thousands of actors, directors, composers, writers, benefactors and local notable figures flocked to the State Theatre on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis to honor a select few for their work over the last theatrical season.
For 12 years, the Ivey Awards has highlighted excellence by individuals and ensembles in Twin Cities theater.
The recipients are chosen based on evaluations from over 150 volunteer theater evaluators. From September 2015 to August 2016, volunteers saw over 1,200 performances in over 84 professional theaters in the seven-county metropolitan area.
Unlike primetime award shows, such as the Tony’s or the Emmy’s, the nominees for each award are not read aloud. Also, several recipients can receive the same award, with the notable exception of the Emerging Artist and Lifetime Achievement awards.
Hosted by Regina Marie Williams and Mark Benninghofen, the 2016 show’s theme focused on what those in the theater do best – play.
And theater was certainly at play Monday night.
Prior to the show’s beginning, the quartet from “Million Dollar Quartet,” now playing at the Old Log Theater, entertained the crowd with rambunctious performances of several hits by Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Other numbers included a playful and suggestive performance of “You Gotta Have A Gimmick,” from “Gypsy,” powerful scenes from “Equus” and a boisterous version of “Hound Dog” by Heather McElrath from “Warm Dark Dusk.”
Productions awarded overall excellence included: The Children’s Theatre Company’s “Wizard Of Oz,” History Theatre’s “Glensheen” and Jungle Theatre’s Le Switch.
The Children’s Theatre Company was highlighted again when Victor Zupanc won for sound design and music for his work on “Pinocchio.” While receiving his award, Zupanc said “I’m the most blessed musician in the world to be working at The Children’s Theatre.”
Warren C. Bowles received accolades for direction of “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company, and Kate Sutton-Johnson for set design of Theater Latte Da’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”
The ensemble of New Epic Theater’s “Now or Later,” and Guthrie Theatre’s “Trouble In Mind” were both honored for their work.
Ivey commentators said “Trouble in Mind” was “so perfectly cast, it’s hard to single one person out.” And when accepting the award, Artistic Director Joseph Haj said “The theater family is the only family I’ve ever wanted to belong to.”
Another emotional speech was given by Jasmine Hughes, who was awarded for her acting in Penumbra Theatre’s “Sunset Baby.” Tears readily flowed down her face as she thanked the Twin Cities for accepting her “fresh off the bus from Mississippi.”
Kevin Fanshaw and Charles Numrich were also honored for their actin in Theatre Coup d’Etat’s “Equus.”
But the biggest awards of the evening honored both the new and the old – the Emerging Artist award and the Lifetime Achievement award.
The Star Tribune’s long-time theater critic Graydon Royce received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Recently retired, he got choked up while discussing his time in the theater community, including when he helped to co-write a play on Muhammad Ali. As he recalled all the years spent reviewing, he mused to be able to have this career “somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”
Emerging Artist Trevor Bowen was heralded for his costume design on shows with Theater Latte Da, Guthrie Theater Pillsbury House Theatre and more.
Bowen has been working in the Twin Cities three years, but is “already making waves” in the community. As he accepted his award, Bowen fought back tears thanking the casts of each show he has worked on for letting him be a part of the storytelling process.
Created as a way to embolden and shine a light on the Twin Cities thriving theater community, the Ivey Awards has become a love letter from the actors to the cities, and community, they work in.
It holds true to theater’s inclusive nature by promoting togetherness by ending with a sing-along version of “What The World Needs Now,” led by Williams, and the message: “stop seeing the me, and start seeing the we.”