Ivey Awards honor the best of local theater

Photo slideshow by Brent Nelson

The red carpet was rolled out on Sept. 23 at the historic State Theater for the ninth annual Ivey awards. This year, the Ivey awards honored the “Heroes of Twin Cities theater.” Members of the theater community and fans joined forces to celebrate and promote the work of 75 professional theaters and their artists. 

Miss Minnesota Rebecca Yeh was spotted on the red carpet, and also performed on the violin during a memorial segment, honoring influential members of the community. City Council candidate Jacob Frey also walked the red carpet. He posted to his Facebook shortly after that he was “arguably one of the least cool people here, but still having a ball at the Ivey Awards!”

In this unique celebration that promotes recognition of excellence that is not based on nominations or votes, camaraderie replaces competition.

This was a goal of Ivey Awards founder, Scott Mayer. The Iveys were founded in 2004 with two objectives: to celebrate and increase awareness of Twin Cities professional theater and to create a celebration for all people who love Twin Cities theater- those within the community and those within the audience.

Actor Doug Anderson said: “I think it’s amazing what Scott has done. These awards have pumped vitality into the creative arts in a way that motivates and recognizes the phenomenal talent in this community.”

Volunteer evaluators attend each show at participating theaters. By the end of the year, they will evaluate over 200 productions and 1,000 performances, according to Mayer. Anyone with a love for the theater is encouraged to become a volunteer.

Beyond the awards given for achievement in direction, performance, production, and design, each participating theater receives a vote for Lifetime Achievement and Emerging Artist awards.

This year’s lifetime achievement award went to writer Jeffrey Hatcher. Hatcher has written many screenplays and scripts including “Tuesdays with Morrie” with Mitch Albom, who wrote the best selling book. This summer his “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club” became the highest grossing show ever at Park Square.

Actor Ricardo Vázquez, a graduate of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. acting program, received the Emerging Artist award. Vázquez has recently been a part of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Park Square and “Next to Normal” at Mixed Blood, among others.

Entertainment was in no short supply with co-hosts actor Shanan Custer and Artistic Director Randy Reyes. The duo provided comic relief for a nearly full house between awards. Both Custer and Reyes have been a part of the local theater community for many years.

Comedians Lauren Anderson and Mike Fotis performed a hilarious superhero-themed skit that gave shout-outs to all of the Ivey’s generous sponsors — including BMW of Minnetonka, Target, and Best Buy, among many others. Both Anderson and Fotis have a long-time affiliation with the Brave New Workshop and have worked together in the past, including their scripted show, “Foterson: Man Lady Funny Time ,”which was performed in at the Brave New Workshop Student Union in 2012.

Talent and hard work were showcased in excerpts from a few of the recognized productions. One standout performance was a medley from “Stay Tuned,” produced by Yellowtree Theater’s artistic director, Jason Peterson. Blake Thomas, Mary Fox, and Andy Frye wrote and stared in the musical and will soon move the show to Duluth for a run. The trio was humbled to be a part of the Ivey awards this year. “It was incredible to be able to show a glimpse of ‘Stay Tuned’ to a much broader audience at the State Theater,” said Frye. “It was also very inspiring to get a glimpse into what other theater companies and artists are creating,” he followed.

Other performances included excerpts from “Clybourne Park” by the Guthrie Theater, “A One-Hijra Stand- Up Comedy Show” by Mixed Blood Theater, “Love and Marriage” by Illusion Theater, “Fine” from “Ordinary Days” by Nautilus Music Theater, and “Let Freedom Ring” from “Urinetown: The Musical” by the Jungle Theater.