Ivey Awards provide passion, backs remain unstabbed

The State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis was nearly full Monday for for the Ivey Awards, the annual celebration of Twin Cities theater that manages to impart a spirit of benevolent community recognition rather than Oscar-style nail biting. 
This year's hosts were local theater heavyweights Claudia Wilkens and Richard Ooms, two very funny and charming people who also happen to be a long-time couple. Too bad we didn't see more of them, other than an intro and a couple of cameos, but with a dozen awards and six short performances to pack in, the Ivey organizers did a nice job of bringing things home in a tidy two hours. 

The 2009 Ivey Award winners:

Christina Baldwin and Jennifer Baldwin Peden for "Sister Stories";
Youth Performance Company for "Little Rock 1957";
Greg Banks, for directing "Romeo and Juliet" at Children's Theatre Company;
Chris Griffith, for prop work on "Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins" at Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company;
History Theatre, for "Tyrone and Ralph";
Sean Healy, for sound design on "Shipwrecked" at the Jungle;
Luverne Seifert, for his role as Philip K. Dick in Workhaus Collective's "800 Words";
Theatre Latte Da, for "Old Wicked Songs";
Sonja Parks, for her one-woman "No Child" at Pillsbury House;
Emily Gunyou Halaas, as 2009's Emerging Artist (she gave a nice shout out to Steve Busa and Miriam Must at the Red Eye);
and a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award to Dudley Riggs, one-time aerialist and vaudevillian, then founder of the Brave New Workshop and driving force behind a half-century of innovative sketch comedy and making fun of things (BNW alum Senator Al Franken gave wry tribute via video). 

Surely the highlight of the evening's performances was Oglesby absolutely nailing "Lot's Wife" from "Caroline, or Change." Even with a stripped-down band behind her, Oglesby rode the waves of the tune's depths of despair, self-negation, and devastating self-awareness; for about four minutes, she managed to completely take over the room and transport the crowd into Caroline's knotted, complicated, impossible consciousness. 

At the end, Ooms exhaled, looked over the audience, and proclaimed, "That wasn't so bad." And as awards presentations go, it truly wasn't. The winners were well-deserved, no one went home a loser, and there was a nicely palpable sense of the outrageous degree of talent and creativity present in the local scene. Folks working here believe in art, and storytelling, and the act of creation for its own sake--there was a definite sense of afterglow in the State Theatre last night, warm memories of beautiful things and insights thought lost. Now, as always, strike the set and start dreaming the next dream.