The Year in Theater

They laughed. They cried. They used the "F" word. They wore funny wigs... and we were there


Shá Cage actor

Fucking A echoed with pain, honesty, political commentary, and just enough humor to balance the extremity. The only words that I can use to describe the experience of playing the lead role of Hester are wasee boree from the Yoruba (Nigerian) language meaning "set free." It stands as one of my most memorable experiences to date. A to-die-for-script, cast, and set, crisp direction, and the freedom to contribute intelligent choices as an actor--a girl couldn't ask for much more.

Cage-y grin: Shá Cage starred in Frank Theatre's 'Fucking A,' one of the year's best theatrical productions
Tony Nelson
Cage-y grin: Shá Cage starred in Frank Theatre's 'Fucking A,' one of the year's best theatrical productions

That said, how could one not remember Mizna's first theater production. With Love from Ramallah employed a large cast of Arab American actors in a gutsy attempt to tell their people's story. My mouth dropped to the floor for a good two minutes digesting the diverse array of beautiful brown performers on one stage. Other 2004 moments that left a lasting imprint on me include Pangea World Theater's physically intense production of Osiris and Gary Keast's transformative role in Pigs Eye Theater's production of Sam Sheppard's Buried Child. It's been a long time since I've seen such a visceral and effective reflection of human beings' "ugly" side. Watching Keast in that role gave me goose bumps.


Zach Curtis artistic director Fifty Foot Penguin Theater

Seven things I saw this year that made me laugh, cry, cheer, and reminded me why we all try to do this for a living (in no particular order, by no means complete, and with all awareness of personal bias included):


  1. Carmen at Theatre de la Jeune Lune
  2. Bob Malos as Teach in American Buffalo at Fifty Foot Penguin Theater
  3. Pygmalion at the Guthrie
  4. Ari Hoptman's loony take on Albert Einstein in Picasso at the Lapin Agile for Pig's Eye
  5. Karla Reck in anything you were lucky enough to see her in
  6. Jeffery Goodson's befuddled and poignant preacher in Joking Apart for Joking Apart
  7. The explosion of Twin Cities actors finding new work in other towns, as close as St. Cloud or Plainview, and as far as Florida Stage

Thanks for a great year.

Thomas W. Jones II actor

The cast of Mixed Blood's Permanent Collection (pictured above) was the funniest I have ever worked with: Phyllis Wright, Karen Malina White, John Donahue. Here I am doing this serious play with goofballs. It was like the tale of two cities. Austere, sincere drama onstage, bawdy, uninhibited conversation in the dressing room.

But perhaps the most memorable thing was opening this show a day after the presidential election. Even though a significant pending court issue was the foundation of Permanent Collection, that case paled in comparison to this particular election. The cast walked in pretty depressed on opening day. I mean, we were not only contemplating how to get through the next four years but how to get through the next twelve hours.


Polly Carl producing artistic director Playwrights' Center

My most memorable theatrical experience came this past June when playwright Mac Wellman was in town to develop October Surprise, a new play about the staged capture of an Osama bin Laden look-alike. George Bush and Karl Rove (played by Maggie Chestovich and Annie Enneking) are reminiscing about Skull and Bones, the elite secret society at Yale, when the actors sneak off-stage, leaving their handpicked Osama (Sonja Parks) alone to contemplate his fate. Next we see George and Karl outside a window, dancing and singing an anthem to absolute power and corrupt purpose. Osama turns around, sees them, and slowly pulls down the blinds, cutting their performance short. I loved the perfect absurdity of this performance and the chilling possibility it imagined.


Steve Yoakam actor

I was sitting in the audience at Mixed Blood's production of Flags Friday night before the election. Besides being a great production of a new play with highly articulate but level and fair political content, it was also very emotional for some members of the crowd. Twice during different parts of the play, people in front of me and in back of me broke into tears. I thought this was the best of theater as it can be--provocative and caring at the same time.


Gulgun Kayim co-artistic/managing director Skewed Visions Performance Company

My cell phone rings; I look at my watch. It's 6:45 p.m. Why was one of the actors in the show calling me now? What was suggested by the timing of the call was confirmed by the edginess in Nathan's voice on the other end: Something was wrong. It was the car. It had broken down. Again. "Is anyone hurt? Wait there, we're on our way. Are the audience members okay? Wait! Where are you?...Oh.... And did you finish the show?" Nathan said that the audience was getting nervous. "That's bad," I thought, especially since the audience, in this case, consisted of three representatives of a major arts funder.

The show is The Car, performed this fall as part of The City Itself, a trilogy of site-specific performances created to explore experiences of intimacy in the urban environment. On that Friday evening, standing in a cold, windy parking lot, contemplating what I was going to say to our three VIPs, it didn't seem like a clever idea or a good thing to be staging a performance in a car, or even three cars. All I could think of was: Why am I doing this? Why can't I just create performances inside a theater where it's safe?

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