Your obligatory Ivey coverage
I have terrible news for you, friends. I went to the Ivey Awards last night, and, I didn't get a single award, unless they handed out an "Excellence in Reaching the Bottom of a Flask" award, and I was too drunk to make it to the stage. Odds are pretty good that you didn't get anything either. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. We can all have a good cry together sometime.
You know who's not crying? Old Smiling Joe. In what was probably the only award that anyone could predict last night (come on, the guy's leaving after 20 years at the big G; who else are they going to give a Lifetime Achievement award to?), the former director of the Guthrie Theater got one more last moment in the spotlight, even as he's been phased out for an new updated Joe model.
But, hey, look, some of you little people out there also got heavy lucite statues last night. This year, three productions from small theater companies got some notice (Gabriel, Nothing is Something and Crime and Punishment) and several individuals from other small productions took home honors (Trick Boxing, Prince Rama's Journey and Grounded). The small companies in the Twin Cities do a lot of good work, and it's always nice to see that recognized. Also, nice to see actor Mikell Sapp honored with the Emerging Artist award.
When I wrote about the Ivey Awards last year, my conclusion was that they were OK. I guess this year I've moved a little further into the "meh" category. To be honest, I had to go read several news stories to remember things about the awards ceremony I attended last night, and I was just there last night! The ceremony itself has achieved such a self-consciously slick imitation of other big awards shows that almost anything idiosyncratic to our own community has been professionally sanded smooth as a botoxed forehead. Maybe this is because the show was being filmed for later broadcast, but it's so chopped and channeled and slick that it has actually slid right through my brain like a greased up nudist on a Slip 'n' Slide. When it airs next week, I can imagine myself catching it on the TV and thinking, "Hey, look at that awards show; I wonder what it was like to watch it in person," and, again, I was actually there watching it in person! In short, there wasn't much memorable about it (unless, I guess, you were one of the people called up to the stage).
If I had to derive some lesson or pattern from this year's random selections, I guess it would be an adaptation of the old adage "money attracts money". In this case, it's "Ivey awards attract Ivey awards". Three of the small theater companies who were recognized this year have won Iveys in the past: Live Action Set for The 7-Shot Symphony in 2011; Walking Shadow Theatre Company for Compleat Female Stage Beauty in 2012; and Open Eye Figure Theatre for Milly & Tilly in 2013. Peter Rothstein has already been the director of five Ivey-honored shows: La Boheme in 2005; KNOCK! in 2006; Doubt in 2011; Spring Awakening in 2012 and Cabaret in 2014. If I really wanted to get nitpicky in driving this point home, I could also point out that Mathew LeFebvre and Sha Cage were both part of the Ivey-recognized 2010 production of Ruined and that Frank Theatre, who produced Cage's Ivey-honored turn in Grounded, has also brought home Iveys in the past.
You could say that this pattern is because these people do good work, and past honors give them the leverage to do more good work; or you could say that the Ivey evaluators just keep circling back to the same things over and over again because they lack a full perspective of the Twin Cities theater scene and any interest in expanding their horizons; but let's be honest with ourselves: there is no pattern. Or, if there is, it's arbitrary and meaningless. Trying to figure out anything about them or what their random categories mean is just as useless and frustrating as Alice trying to figure out the logic of Wonderland.
Lately here at Minnesota Playlist, we've been having a spirited conversation on what the Iveys mean.
Maybe they just don't mean anything, and all we're doing is laying sacrifices at the feet of a blind, uncaring god, praying desperately for rain that sits tantalizingly on the horizon, but never, ever brings the storm we actually want. These awards are just as impenetrable and capricious as the day they were first given out, and they probably always will be.
So, same time next year, then?
The world kept turning while the Iveys happened
Yes, there is life outside of the Iveys! Here are some things that are probably definitely happening somewhere: (1) American Theatre Magazine has released its annual lists of the Top 10 Most-Produced Plays and Top 20 Most-Produced Playwrights for the last American theater season, and, in an amazing twist that nobody saw coming, it's mostly dominated by white guys. However, Ayad Akhtar and his play Disgraced have muscled their way to the top of both lists, marking only the third time a non-white person has been in the number one slot.
August Wilson jumped back on the list this year as well, just in time for Denzel Washington to adapt all of his plays for HBO.
(2) So, someone had to go and do something stupid with The Mikado. After a blogger noticed that an upcoming production of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta was mostly just a bunch of white people in yellow face, an outcry went out across the internet so loud that the producing company canceled the production and released several statements clearly showing that they have no idea that the world has moved on quite a bit since Gilbert and Sullivan wrote the piece.
If you read any of the comments on any of the articles (and, for the love of all that is holy, do not do that), the argument has once again boiled down to two reflexive arguments: "You're a racist!" on one side and "Political correctness is killing art!" on the other. For a little balance (that will be destroyed the second you click on "comments", here's New York Times columnist Lawrence Downs wrestling with the issue.
(3) Hey, did you know that the Southern Theater is still going strong with its ambitious ARTshare program? Well, The Southern Theater is still going strong with its ambitious ARTshare program.
(4) Bedlam Theater is still struggling to save itself. Even though Kim Bartmann will be partnering with the company to try to turn around the Lowertown venue, the company's $75,000 indiegogo campaign fell short. There's still three months to go before they need the whole $400,000 Bedlam says it needs to survive into 2016.
(5) Sick of all the hoopla and confusion around the Iveys? Maybe you should consider the Sage awards for dance. Nominations for this year's awards were just announced, and, holy crap, Iveys, look at this: nominations and categories in an awards show!