Ivey Awards take place, no casualties reported

Categories: Theater
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The first-annual Ameriprise Financial Ivey awards went down Monday night, and the State Theatre's main floor was nearly full of members from all levels of the Twin Cities theater community. It's fair to say that there was some ambivalence

about a corporate-sponsored theater awards show designed to honor what considers itself a largely grassroots scene, but the show struck a decent balance between recognizing indie productions and nodding toward the big institutional theaters (which, despite possessing big names and artistic cachet, by and large do not possess printing presses churning out the Benjamins). Here are a few post-show awards:

--Best Speech: Dominique Serrand of Theatre de la Jeune Lune, who reminisced about CTC founder John Donahue telling him long ago that TJL was "the new girl in town," then pulled the applause lever by sympathizing with Katrina victims and in the same breath musing that maybe the South will finally quit voting for the Republicans.

--Shortest Speech: Nathan Christopher, who took the Emerging Artist award by basically shrugging sheepishly at the audience and then ambling off.

--Aw Shucks Moment Part One: Peter Rothstein, accepting an award for his production of La Boheme, thanked his eighty-two year-old mother, who has seen his every show and was in the audience.

--Aw Shucks Moment Part Two: Steve Hendrickson, taking an award for his performance in 10,000 Things' Cyrano, thanked his wife for sticking by him and told her he loved her in an auditorium full of thousands of people.

--Most Well Deserved: Penumbra Theatre founder Lou Bellamy took the Lifetime Achievement award, with a full-on video screen restrospective of his life and career followed by a stirring speech about connecting life and art.

--Best Case of Conquering Nerves: Lighting Designer Marcus Dilliard, who took the stage with a written-out speech and admitted that he would greatly, greatly prefer to be on the other side of the lights.

--Oddest Omission: While Helen Q. Huang won an award for costume design and Joe Chvala for his choreography, there was no award for set design. Joel Sass and Bain Boehlke spring to mind as obvious candidates.

--Best Suit: Zach Curtis arrived in an ornate, pin-striped, long, black, vested number that he insisted he bought off the rack.

The show opened with a musical number by the Ivey League (ha, ha, now I get it) that gave lessons in proper theater behavior for audiences (coughing and farting are apparently off limits). The show was, frankly, blessedly short, and the small orchestra even started playing over acceptance speeches that began to wander. The awards were generally apt if seemingly a bit arbitrary, but it was probably best to avoid fixed categories and the inevitable controversey that arises when the game is played with winners and losers. As co-host Justin Kirk put it, "This is Minnesota--no one is better than anyone else."

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