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Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul

12th Annual Ivey Awards Celebrate Excellence in Twin Cities Theater
Historic State Theatre
Review by Arthur Dorman | Season Schedule

Also see Arty's review of The Liar

The 2016 Iveys—including pre-event activities, behind-the-scenes interviews and the Awards show—will be broadcast on 45TV at 7pm on Saturday, September 24, 2016, and on KSTP-TV at 1am on Sunday, September 25.

Graydon Royce
Photo by Tom Wallace
On Monday, September 19, 2017, the 12th annual Ivey Awards recognizing excellence in Twin Cities' theater were presented at the State Theatre. This awards show has become an occasion for the theater community to come together in celebration not only of the winners, but the full spectrum of work, dazzling pool of talent, and strong spirit of collaboration that makes our theater scene so vibrant.

Two categories of Ivey Awards are given annually: Emerging Artist, and Lifetime Achievement. The 2016 Award for Lifetime Achievement went to Graydon Royce, longtime theater critic and arts reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Royce, who recently retired from his post, joined the Star Tribune in 1980 as an editor and became part of the arts team in 1999. He grew up in Mound, Minnesota, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a degree in journalism. He was a fellow at the 2003 O'Neill Theater National Critics Institute and a fellow at the National Endowment for the Arts Institute on Classical Music and Opera in 2009.

Trevor Bowen
Photo by Tom Wallace
Costume designer Trevor Bowen was named winner of the 2016 Emerging Artist Award. Bowen arrived in Minnesota less than five years ago as a design assistant in the Guthrie's costume shop. Since then, has designed costumes for many of the area's major theater companies, including Mixed Blood Theater, Theatre Latté Da, Pillsbury House Theatre, Park Square Theatre, Ten Thousand Things, the History Theater, and the Jungle Theater. Nationally, Bowen has designed costumes for the Contemporary American Theater Festival (West Virginia), the Gateway Playhouse (New York), and has assistant costume design credits with the Public Theater (New York City), Steppenwolf Theater (Chicago), and Long Wharf Theater (Connecticut). Bowen holds an M.F.A. in costume design from West Virginia University.

These two annual awards represent the climax of each year's Iveys. Leading up to that are awards to specific productions for overall excellence, as well as awards singling out the work of directors, actors, ensembles and designers. Rather than have pre-established categories and nominees, every production mounted by the 84 participating theater organizations is reviewed by five or six Ivey Evaluators from a pool of over 150 eligible evaluators who saw over 1,200 performances during the 2015-16 season. Evaluators submit online forms that are both numerical and content based, which are summarized by a software program to determine a slate of honorees, to be ratified by the board of the Ivey Awards. The element of surprise and anticipation, given that the majority of those in the house are potential winners, makes the Ivey Awards a uniquely exuberant show.

The 2016 Ivey recipients are:


  • The Wizard of Oz (Children's Theatre Company) - Overall Excellence
  • Glensheen (History Theatre) - Overall Excellence
  • Le Switch (Jungle Theater) - Overall Excellence


  • Victor Zupanc - Sound Design and Music: Pinocchio (Children's Theatre Company)
  • Kevin Fanshaw and Charles Numrich - Acting: Equus (Theatre Coup d'Etat)
  • Warren C. Bowles - Direction: The Tale of the Allergist's Wife (Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company)
  • Kate Sutton-Johnson - Set Design: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Theater Latté Da)
  • Jasmine Hughes - Acting: Sunset Baby (Penumbra Theatre)
  • Ensemble - Acting: Trouble in Mind (Guthrie Theater)
  • Ensemble - Acting: Now or Later (New Epic Theater)

The two hour show moved swiftly, alternating between award presentations and entertainments selected from 2015-2016 season productions. One of last year's co-hosts, Regina Williams, returned, joined this year by Mark Benninghofen. The pair were splendidly dressed for the occasion, Williams radiant in an indigo gown furnished by dugo at the Galleria, Benninghofen rocking a sharp suit from MartinPatrick3.

"Theater at Play" was theme of this year's Iveys, with wordplay peppering the opening routine written in rhymed verse by Zach Curtis and Shanan Custer (both currently performing rhymed couplets in The Liar at Park Square). Taj Ruler and Ryan Robert Nelson showed up in their roles as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively, from Brave New Workshop's current show Lady and the Trump to recite, in "non-partisan manner," the list of the Ivey's many corporate sponsors.

The entertainment began as the audience entered the house and found their seats, with the cast of Old Log Theater's current Million Dollar Quartet performing several of the show's numbers. Other performances included musical scenes from Yellow Tree Theatre's Violet, Savage Umbrellas' June, Urban Spectrum Theatre Company's So Blue, Theater Latté Da's Gypsy, and Park Square Theatre's Nina Simone: Four Women, with co-host Regina Williams reprising her turn in the title role. Dramatic excerpts presented included Candid Theater Company's I'll Eat You Last: A Conversation with Sue Mengers, Illusion Theater/Transatlantic Love Affair's co-production Emilie/Eurydice, Dark and Stormy Productions' And So It Goes, and Theatre Coup d'Etat's Equus. A performance of "Rocky Mountain High" from Plymouth Playhouse's production Country Roads served as the soundtrack for an In Memoriam slide tribute.

The Iveys ended with co-hosts Williams and Benninghofen joined on stage by the evening's presenters and performers to sing "What the World Needs Now," modeled no doubt after the recording by a galaxy of Broadway stars as both tribute to and fundraiser for survivors of the mass shooting in June at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It was a warm and unifying way to conclude, underscoring that even with exceptional work done by Iveys winners, it is the strength of our community in its totality that makes the Twin Cities such fertile ground for theater, and that makes theater a beacon for hope in a troubled world.

Director: Joe Chvala; Producer: Shannon Pierce; Music Director: Denise Prosek; Writers: Zach Curtis and Shanan Custer; Lighting Designer: Grant Merges; Video Director: Bob Chouinard; Associate Producer: Linda Walen; Technical Director: Jim Gangl; Stage Managers: Mary Kay Fortier-Spalding, Morgan Jappe, Colin Williams, Cody Wagner; Ivey Awards Founder and Director: Scott Mayer.

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