For once, Bain Boehlke was nearly speechless.
When the usually talkative founder of the Jungle Theater faced a State Theatre packed with his peers, he could barely get out a few thank yous before he began to tear up. It's understandable, as Boehlke had just been awarded an Ivey Award for Lifetime Achievement. The award was given to him by longtime collaborator (and 2010 honoree) Wendy Lehr.
"I may not be mad as a hatter, but I'm still crazy after all these years," Boehlke said as he accepted the award at the gala last night.
A few moments later backstage, he was quick to praise the growth of the Twin Cities theater community over the 50-plus years of his own career.
"Fifty years ago, this wasn't here," Boehlke said after a round of promotional photographs. "It's a real great indication of this city's cultural life."
Along with the Jungle, Boehlke was an early member of the Children Theatre Company, often performing with Lehr. The actor, director, designer, and producer says it was a particular thrill to have Lehr give him the prize.
Anna Sundberg earned the nod for Emerging Artist, a well-deserved honor for the actor, who has lit up Twin Cities stages for several years (including in the current Walking Shadow Theatre Company show reasons to be pretty). Just in the past year, she has been featured at Children's Theatre Company (in Robin Hood), with Joking Envelope (in the lead of Sexy Librarian: File Under Rock Musical), and in Girl Friday's epic Street Scene.
In a brisk, two-hour ceremony, the Iveys honored 10 productions and artists for their achievements in the past year or for their overall body of work. The awards, in typical Minnesota fashion, are non-competitive. Instead, voters go out to numerous shows throughout the year and find specific performances, design efforts, and overall productions to honor.
Two 2011 productions earned kudos for overall work. Ten Thousand Things was honored for its searing work on Doubt, while Live Action Set received its first of what may be many (well, I can guarantee at least one more) nods for its amazing Western/old-world myths/movement mash-up, The 7-Shot Symphony.
Individual honors went to a variety of artists and shows. Craig Johnson received an Ivey for his excellent work as the director of Street Scene. Peter Christian Hansen was honored for his turn in Burn This at Gremlin Theatre. Dennis Spears's channeling of Nat King Cole in I Wish You Love from Penumbra was honored, as was Ben Bakken's take on the Christian savior in Jesus Christ Superstar at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.
Two more behind-the-scenes artists were honored: Gary Rue's fantastic music direction on the History Theatre's Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story and David Bolger choreography for the Guthrie Theater's H.M.S. Pinafore.