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Posts about Awards

Twin Cities arts leader to be honored

Posted by: Rohan Preston Updated: May 14, 2014 - 4:10 PM

Twin Cities arts leader Catherine Jordan is being honored for her longtime championing of arts and culture.

Jordan, who has served such organizations as the Bush Foundation, Intermedia Arts and Circus Juventas over the past several decades, is one of the recipients of the first annual Artspace Artist Awards, which will be presented Monday in a celebration at the Cowles Center for Dance in Minneapolis.

The award comes from  Artspace, the nation’s leading nonprofit arts developer with a billion dollar portfolio of nearly three dozen residential and office properties across the nation, including the Cowles Center.

Jordan is one of four winners annnounced; the others, all of whom live in Artspace properties and each of whom will receive $5,000, are photographer Tabatha Mudra of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; poet and visual artist Linda Cover of Santa Cruz, N.M.; and Quest Skinner, a painter and teacher in Washington, D.C.

Monday’s celebration, called “Breaking Ground,” features the dance and drum duo Buckets and Tap Shoes; singer Ashley DuBose from NBC’s “The Voice”; and New Orleans jazz trumpet supremo James Andrews.

John Moe, host of American Public Media's comedy show "Wits," will do similar honors Monday.

Tickets, $20, are on sale.

Drs. Lou, Jack & Marion?

Posted by: Rohan Preston Updated: April 29, 2014 - 2:37 PM

Three of Minnesota’s esteemed theater practitioners will all be getting honorary doctorates this spring.

Penumbra Theatre founder Lou Bellamy (right, photo by Ann Marsden) will receive an honorary doctorate of divinity on May 18 from United Theological Seminary.

Lou Bellamy

In the same month, Jack Reuler, who founded Mixed Blood Theatre, will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Macalester College, his alma mater, while Tony-nominated director Marion McClinton will be similarly honored by Concordia University.

“One of the things that’s always been an issue [in the academy] is artists having enough respect so they can speak for themselves,” said Bellamy, who founded Penumbra in 1976, the same year that Mixed Blood got its start.

“The scholars used to send the artists out of the room then would begin discussing what they [artists] meant in their work. What this [honorary degree] means is that artists are being given institutional respect for their intellectual accomplishments as well as their craft.”

“I do feel a little like Scarecrow from ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” Reuler said Tuesday. “Now, I’ve got to get up there and recite something.”

Jack Reuler

Coincidentally, all three honored men were inspired by Ernie Hudson, who was then an athlete and actor at the University of Minnesota. Hudson starred in “The Great White Hope” at Theatre in the Round Players in 1975, a production that proved so popular, the theater wanted to extend the run. Hudson wanted to continue playing the part as well but he sought compensation for his talents. TRP, a community theater that has historically not paid actors, was unwilling to do.

The production enjoyed a commercial run in a transfer to another venue in Minneapolis.

“It was a monumental performance that changed my life,” said McClinton, who spent two years at the U but never finished. “I had intended to go into film but when I saw that, I knew that that was my calling. It opened my eyes about the kind of statements you could make onstage.”

“That episode showed how few opportunities there were for artists of color at that time,” added Reuler.

Reuler, who intended to go become a veterinarian while a student at Macalester, founded Mixed Blood as a summer job after graduation. But he met diverting success with the theater whose mission involves living out some of the principles espoused by Martin Luther King, Jr.

“It’s the summer job that’s lasted 38 years,” he said.

Bellamy also founded Penumbra with similar intent. Now all three men are national figures.

Reuler is a leader in the field who teaches in California and serves on multiple panels. His company regularly premieres new plays and has given work and opportunities to hosts of artists.

The same is true for Bellamy, also a field leader while his theater, the largest African-American company in the nation, is esteemed for its jazz style of directing and the talent it has nurtured. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson was a company member at Penumbra, which is known as the finest interpreter of his work.

Marion McClinton

McClinton (right, photo by Tom Wallace) was Wilson’s director of choice for 15 years toward the end of the latter's life. McClinton staged “Jitney” in London, where the production won an Olivier Award, the English Tonys, and in New York, where McClinton won an Obie. He also directed Wilson's “King Hedley II” on Broadway, for which he was nominated for a best-director Tony.

“I used to play baseball and softball over at Concordia when I was a kid,” said McClinton. “It’s nice to be honored in your home.”

Mark Rylance, who has performed in the Twin Cities, nominated for two Tonys

Posted by: Rohan Preston Updated: April 29, 2014 - 10:58 AM

Actor and adaptor Mark Rylance, who has performed Shakespeare at the Guthrie and who adapted Louis Jenkins' poems into a play called "Nice Fish," has been nominated for two Tony Awards, it was announced Tuesday.

Rylance was nominated for leading actor in a play for playing the title character in the Shakespearean tragedy, "Richard III." He also was nominated for supporting actor in a play for his turn as Olivia in an all-male casting of the comedy "Twelfth Night." 

He performed in a similar all-male "Twelfth Night" many years ago at the Guthrie.

Other Tony nominations went to Neil Patrick Harris for his lead performance in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," five-time Tony winner Audra McDonald for her turn in "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" and Idina Menzel for "If/Then."

Here is the full list of nominations.

Twin Cities-connected artists score big in Doris Duke performing arts awards

Posted by: Rohan Preston Updated: April 22, 2014 - 12:26 PM

Ragamala Dance Theatre founder Ranee Ramaswamy (right, photo by Ed Bock) was in Banana Republic at the Mall of America when she got the call that she had been awarded $275,000 from the Doris Duke Foundation in New York.

Choreographer Emily Johnson, who founded Catalyst Dance, was just about to give her dog a bath when she, too, got a similar call.

“I cried,” said Johnson, 38. “I was just stunned.”

Ramaswamy 62, had a similar reaction. “I walked out of the store and sat on a bench for God knows how long,” she said. “You know, you do your work out of love, and then a blessing like that comes.”

The Twin Cities scored big in the Doris Duke performing arts awards, announced Tuesday. In addition to Johnson and Ramaswamy, Twin Cities puppet-maker Michael Sommers was awarded $80,000 from the Duke Foundation, named for the famous arts loving philanthropist and tobacco heiress.

Golden Valley-bred composer and pianist Craig Taborn, who now lives in New York, also was awarded $275,000.

The Twin Cities-connected performers were part of a national roster of 39 artists in theater, dance and jazz who were honored this year. Choreographers Bill T. Jones, Joanna Haigood and John Jasperse were also named winners alongside playwrights David Henry Hwang, Lisa Kron and Tarell Alvin McCraney as well as jazz greats Roscoe Mitchell and Randy Weston.              

In the past three years, the Duke foundation has given out more than $18 million to artists, funds that are delivered over years and that include a portion for retirement savings.

Ramaswamy who founded Ragamala 22 years ago, is in Philadelphia, where she was on a panel for the Pew Charitable Trusts. She was, with daughter Aparna, the Star Tribune’s Artist of the Year in 2011. In 2012, President Obama appointed her to the National Arts Council.

“You know, as an artist, you’re working your little thread,” said Ramaswamy. “When it gets noticed, that gives you encouragement to continue doing what you do. This is a gift like that. And to be mentioned in the same breath with Bill T. Jones, that’s a high honor.”

Over $1 million in support offered to new plays across the country

Posted by: Rohan Preston Updated: March 28, 2014 - 6:06 PM

The Theatre Communications Group on Friday announced the Edgerton Foundation New Play Awards had gone to 39 world premieres that are the recipient of over $1 million in financial support.

The impressive roster of winners for the 2013-2014 cycle includes plays that have already been produced, like film-maker Ethan Coen’s “Women or Nothing ,” which premiered at the Atlantic Theatre in New York last summer, and Matt Gould’s and Griffin Matthews’ “Witness Uganda” (pictured above, photo courtesy of ART), which closed March 16 at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge; and Rebecca Gilman’s “Luna Gale,” which closed in February at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.

The list also includes works by playwrights who have some Twin Cities affiliation, such as Samuel D. Hunter, whose “Rest” opened Friday at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, Calif., and Marcus Gardley, whose “The Gospel of Lovingkindness” closes Sunday at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago.

And there are some big names in the mix as well, including Pultizer-, Oscar- and Tony-winner John Patrick Shanley (“Outside Mullingar”), Tony winner Harvey Fierstein (“Casa Valentina”) and legendary musical theater composer John Kander, who has teamed up with new librettist Greg Pierce (“The Landing”).

In just seven years, the foundation has given over $6 million to support the world premieres of new works, primarily through extra rehearsal time. The foundation has an impressive track record. Thirteen of the plays it has supported have gone to Broadway, including Pulitzer winners “Next to Normal” and “Water by the Spoonful” and best play Tony winner “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.”

“The impact of this support is undeniable, with so many of the plays going on to numerous subsequent productions,” TCG executive director Teresa Eyring said in a statement.

What is striking is that while metropolitan areas such as Salt Lake City, Denver and Atlanta have theaters represented among the winners, there is not one Twin Cities playhouse on the list.

To be fair, there is new work being done in Minneapolis and St. Paul, including at the Children’s Theatre and Pillsbury House. Still, it’s surprising that such a fertile theater ecology would come up blank.


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