Artists of the Year

Twin Cities playwrights

By Quinton Skinner

If the world can be described at the battleground of limited perspectives, the stage might well be the place where every perspective exists at once: the performers, the technicians, the audience, all collaborating on (when it works) intoxicating artistic alchemy. Of course none of it happens without the opposite of communal behavior, the act of a lone individual committing words to page. In 2007, the Twin Cities saw a bevy of new works by local playwrights appear on local stages—so many, in fact, that the names and works ran over an entire page of my notebook and spilled over onto the next.

Early in the year was Jeany Park's 100 Men's Wife at the History Theatre, a new work about the first Asian woman in Minnesota. Later came the premiere of To All Men Named Jackson by Karla Reck, about a mother and daughter locked into a cycle of grieving and loss. The playwright-driven Workhaus Collective debuted with Dominic Orlando's weird, funny A Short Play About Globalization, starring Randy Reyes as the brainwashed American Idol champion they called Frisbee (no, really).

The Burning House Group staged Alan Berks's 3 Parts Dead, an entirely daring and gripping existential ghost story, while Off-Leash Area tackled Max Sparber's interstellar fairy tale A Gift for Planet BX63. Lest audiences forget to laugh, two of the funniest comedies in recent memory emerged in the form of Lisa Clair and Adam Collingnon's Jake-A-Dee Meyer and Sam L. Landman and Matthew Glover's Feelgood Hits of the '70s.

On the adaptation end of the spectrum, Anne Bertram penned the multifaceted Frankenstein Incarnate: The Passions of Mary Shelley for Theatre Unbound, while Hardcover Theater's Steve Schroer expertly adapted a spooky children's story for The Savage Joy of Breaking Things, and director Liz Neerland of Nimbus staged a two-part take on the Greek Orestes myth that brimmed with understanding and taut pacing.

Nick Ryan's Elizabethan thriller Bards was a solid highlight of this summer's Fringe Festival, along with Amy Salloway's gastric-bypass-pondering monologue Circumference. Fringe stalwart Joseph Scrimshaw, for his part, followed up the summertime confection MacBeth's Awesome Scottish Castle Party with the holiday comedy Fat Man Crying (not to mention the ongoing life of his Adventures in Mating).

At the History Theatre, Syl Jones took a (critically maligned, at least in these pages) run at the Puckett myth with Kirby, which if nothing else exhibited the brass to portray a complicated and flawed icon. Then, finally, in the fall, the new Exposed Brick Theatre staged Stacey Parshall's Shipside, a dark meditation on motherhood and mental illness (based on real-life tragedy) that raised more unsettling questions than it sought to answer.

While this list surely isn't as comprehensive as it could be, I hope the point is made: We have a surplus of writers here on the tundra, not to mention companies willing to take the risk of staging their work. So if playwrights rarely have the opportunity to take a bow, it's only because they're off by themselves, neck-deep in the next tantalizing shot at transmitting their vision to the world.

Quinton Skinner is City Pages' theater critic and author of the novels Fourteen Degrees Below Zero and Amnesia Nights.

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City Pages' 2007 Artists of the Year:

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