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Posts Tagged Ivey Awards

Park Square at the Ivey’s

Here we are, a week later and the 2016 Ivey Awards are already in our rear-view mirror as we hurtle down the highway towards a new and promising season of theatre in the Twin Cities. Park Square certainly has a full lineup including The Liar, The Realistic Joneses, A House on Mango Street, A Raisin in the Sun and The Soul of Gershwin. Who knows if those or any other Park Square shows will be featured at the ceremony next year. All we can talk about for now are the ones we had the pleasure to see from last year’s remarkable season.

Everyone's favorite blogger (on the right).

David Beukema (left) and some blogger (right).

It started with me taking my seat at the beautiful State Theatre in Minneapolis and pulling out my phone to make sure I had everything ready for the tweets to come. I assured those around me that my texting was for the greater good and I was 100% paying attention to the entertainment on stage (those friends, by the way, were the Girl Friday Productions gang whose play, Idiot’s Delights, will be taking over the Boss Stage next summer!).

The evening’s entertainment started off with a bang, with Regina Marie Williams and Mark Benninghofen hosting the show. Benninghofen was in Shooting Star at Park Square in 2015; and Williams, most recently as Nina Simone in the eponymous smash hit. The house rocked later on when Williams, Thomasina Petrus and Aimee K. Bryant came out and performed a number from the show.

Hosts Mark Beninghofen and Regina Marie Williams. Photo credit: Ivey Awards

Hosts Mark Beninghofen and Regina Marie Williams.       Photo credit: Ivey Awards

While all of those performances serve to break up the flow of acceptance speeches, occasionally it seems to work the other way around. One of the best was from Park Square veteran Warren C. Bowles, who won an Ivey Award for his direction of The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife at Minnesota Jewish Theatre (hooray St. Paul!), who was so shocked he was begging the band for his cue-to-exit music.

My personal favorite moment of the night, however, was costume designer Trevor Bowen accepting his award for emerging artist. Having met Trevor in the halls of Park Square (where he designed the costumes for My Children! My Africa! and Nina Simone: Four Women), I can attest to the bright warming light of human being that he is. He had me cracking up through misty eyes as he could barely get through his speech, overcome with emotion on several occasions.

Example of Bowen's costumes in My Children! My Africa! featuring Ivey Recipient Warren C. Bowles.

Example of Bowen’s costumes in My Children! My Africa! featuring Ivey Award recipient Warren C. Bowles (left).   Photo credit: Petronella J. Ytsma

Bowen’s speech was definitely a highlight of a night where everyone deserved their spot in the sun. While Park Square itself wasn’t specifically recognized for any one thing, it was clear that the theatre has a far-reaching influence on the Cities. Even the co-writers of the ceremony, Shanan Custer and Zach Curtis, are frequent performers at Park Square and can currently be seen in The Liar. That to me is just as consequential as any trophy and echoes the spirit of the Ivey Awards. No nominees, no categories, no egos; just a gathering of friends and collaborators to celebrate the miracle of live theatre, because when you consider what it really takes to produce such art… whew, you wouldn’t believe it!

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Well, Park Square and its patrons believe it and we’re all looking forward to a brand new season and getting dressed up for next year’s theatre prom.

The Best According to Whom?

There are without a doubt, subjects that can be defined as “best” and . . . “not best.”  For many things, however, the line is distinctly less obvious, and the difference between what’s good and bad often comes down to one person’s opinion.  “Everyone’s a critic” rings painfully true for artists, who often feel as if their entire life’s work can be made or broken depending on whether or not the critic was able to find adequate parking or hasn’t fallen ill from an undercooked fish.

“He abandoned me… and now I have no eyebrows.” – Mona

Artists will devote countless hours on a project, plumbing the depths of the human condition, often at the expense of their own pleasures.  Da Vinci once said that “art is never finished, only abandoned” and, as an actor, I get that.  Weeks go by and you’re still tinkering with the artwork, knowing that at some point you’re going to have to let it fly on opening night.  It’s hard to do that, especially when you know there are people actually getting paid to sit in the dark to critique you on all of that devotion. Exposing yourself like that is, in short, a leap of faith.

Yes, the critic is there to do a job but as for power?  I believe we give critics only as much power as we let them.  The simple question is “Who do we do it for?”  To serve ourselves in the hope that a “good” review will grant us the keys to a sort of acting El Dorado or to show audiences a glimpse of their own forgotten humanity? In my short career, I’ve come to learn that by focusing on the former you lose sight of the latter, leading to a weak foundation that will eventually crumble in on itself.

I ask then:  Who determines what’s “the best” theatre?  The reviewers, the audiences, the artists themselves?  All of them are intrinsic to the welfare of the art and have a voice.  Inevitably those voices clash and no more so than during big “oo-lah-lah” events such as the Tony Awards, where suddenly anyone who has seen a play–any play–speaks out about the nominees and not always in the most positive light.

These are the same people who annually disparage the Oscars for not amounting to a hill of beans.  Why should we care about an awards show that rewards bloated and stale Broadway?  Because I believe, for better or worse, this is the face of the industry–practically the only thing Joe the Plumber may think of when someone says “theatre”; and dang it, if Joe the Plumber thinks anything about theatre at all then we’re off to a good start.  Of course, we artists sticking it out here in the hinterlands know that the American theatre is so much richer than what the Tony’s represent, but it pays to be informed about what’s happening in New York, no matter your position.  So I would recommend not forgetting to take your grain of salt and just appreciate the fact that Theatre gets its day in the mainstream sun for at least one night a year.

“The Best.”  Can we define it?  Can we spot it in a line up?  Sometimes absolutely; but more often than not, we’re just comparing apples to oranges, whether it’s the critics or the Tony Awards.  I say we, the artists, raise our voices a bit more in solidarity and less in sniping at each other.  Then we can enjoy the big oo-lah-lah events as the giant self-celebratory parties that they ought to be.

Totally the Ivey Awards, right? I mean, that’s Craig Johnson in the back, right? They waaaay back?

 

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