In June, Joe Dowling retired as director of the Guthrie Theater after 20 years. Now, the Ivey Awards has recognized Dowling’s tenure in the Twin Cities with the 2015 Ivey Lifetime Achievement Award.
Dowling is the 11th lifetime honoree of the annual celebration of Twin Cities theater. He was feted Monday night at the ceremony at the State Theatre in Minneapolis.
“I feel enormously honored to join the remarkable list of artists who have won this award before me,” said Dowling, who was greeted with a standing ovation. “We came here 20 years ago as complete strangers to the Twin Cities. In these 20 years I have gotten to work with so many great artists and this feels like home.”
Dowling was the longest-tenured artistic director in Guthrie history. He spearheaded a $125 million campaign to build a three-theater complex on the Mississippi River, which opened in 2006. He also brought in playwrights Arthur Miller, Tony Kushner and Christopher Hampton for world premieres and routinely sought international companies to visit Minneapolis. Actor Mark Rylance worked often at the Guthrie.
On the stage, Dowling was known for his work with Miller, Anton Chekhov, Tom Stoppard and Irish playwrights Sean O’Casey, George Bernard Shaw and Brian Friel. His final production in June was a heartfelt “Juno and the Paycock” the O’Casey play that introduced him to U.S. audiences.
The Iveys honored young actor Mikell Sapp as Emerging Artist — the other standing honor presented each year. Sapp is an Alabama native who quickly has turned heads at Pillsbury House (“Marcus, or the Secret of Sweet”), Penumbra (“The Ballad of Emmett Till”) and Mixed Blood (“Pussy Valley”).
“When I moved up here from Alabama they told me this wasn’t possible, but I guess this little old country boy proved them wrong,” said Sapp, who said he shared the award with his “Marcus” castmates.
The Iveys also recognized three small theater productions from the last year, in addition to nine individuals and one acting ensemble.
Walking Shadow Theatre’s production of “Gabriel” and Open Eye Figure Theatre’s “Nothing Is Something” were honored for overall excellence. Live Action Set’s human-scale diorama of “Crime and Punishment” was recognized for production design.
Choreographers Brian Sostek and Megan McClellan were recognized for “Trick Boxing,” a show that has been frequently performed around town since the duo developed it more than 13 years ago. It was produced this past season at Park Square.
Peter Rothstein was cited for his direction of “Romeo & Juliet” for Ten Thousand Things. Actors Claudia Wilkens and Barbara Kingsley won recognition for their performances in “Gertrude Stein and a Companion" — another blast from the past that enjoyed a remount this year at the Jungle Theater. Actor Shá Cage was chosen for her performance in the solo show “Grounded,” by Frank Theatre.
Music directors Joko Sutrisno (Green T Productions’ “Prince Rama’s Journey”) and Steve Tyler (Ordway’s “Pirates of Penzance”) received Iveys, as did costume designer Mathew LeFebvre, whose work has been a staple of the Guthrie and other theaters for many years.
In a doubling up for Emerging Artist Sapp, he and the ensemble of “Marcus” were honored for their work in the production by Pillsbury House and the Mount Curve Company.
Performers Regina Marie Williams (who will star in “Sister Act” at Chanhassen in November) and Christina Baldwin hosted the Iveys, which were celebrating 11 years of operation. The recognitions (the Iveys resist calling them awards) are based on the evaluations by 150 volunteers who saw more than 1,000 performances by 78 different companies since last September.