The Ivey Awards popped up three years ago as a way to honor the Twin Cities theater community. Its founder, Scott Mayer, has done a phenomenal job of building enthusiasm for the event. Last night, board members, Ivey evaluators, actors, artistic directors, and yes, arts journalists and critics, were invited to the Orpheum Theatre for a two-hour schmoozefest, complete with an open bar and amuse-bouches. Rarely has networking been so fun. A big standing ovation goes to Scott and everyone else who helped make last night happen!
St. Paul’s mayor, Chris Coleman, gave a speech about the importance of the arts, not just for its revenue but for its communal and spiritual value. Without theater, he said, we will have lost a part of our humanity. Mayer spoke proudly about the sixty-plus professional theaters in town (which elicited lots of hooting and clapping), but he also noted grimmer statistics. He said that some shows have been canceled to due to zero attendance; that some houses were not even half full; that even our Tony Award–winning companies—Theatre de la Jeune Lune, the Guthrie, and Children’s Theatre Company—continue to need our support. We finally have an awards show that celebrates the breadth and diversity of our theater community, and it’s our job—your job, my job, our friends’ jobs—to help keep it alive.
He offered up some excellent suggestions on how to do so:
+ Pledge to see a show every month by at least one company you’ve never heard of. Here are some ideas: Burning House Group is doing Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw May 10-27; Torch Theater, led by actor Stacia Rice, is doing A Thousand Clowns through May 5. Starting Gate Productions’ King Lear, directed by Matt Sciple, opens May 18. Sciple, by the way, is currently playing Ahab in physical theater director’s Jon Ferguson’s take on Moby Dick, called Or the White Whale (closes April 22). I can think of dozens of other off-the-radar companies I’d recommend seeing. The Ivey Awards website has the most comprehensive listings in town.
+ When you go see a show, bring a friend. According to Mayer, if you saw one show a month by a company you’ve never seen before, it would take you about five years to patronize all of them. Did you know that the Twin Cities has more theater seats per capita than New York City? It’s true.
+ If you aren’t already on the board of a theater, join one. If you haven’t donated to a theater, do so.
Sometimes it’s hard to recognize the value of something until it’s gone. None of us want to be the person lamenting that they’d “never seen that show that was supposed to be amazing” or “wished I had seen something by that company that that now-really-successful director used to run.”
I’ve often felt that regret, and it’s my job to see theater. At this year’s Iveys, I hope to have seen at least one show by each of those sixty-plus theaters. I might not be able to do it, but I think it’s an honorable goal.
The Ivey Awards will be held September 24 at the State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. I hope to see you there.