Just like the sack race in elementary school, everyone who shows up at the Iveys is a winner.

Regardless, there are "winners," in that some people are called to the stage to recognize outstanding achievement in the past year. I've scratched my head often, but the Ivey evaluators who go out and see dozens of shows each year are egalitarian and diverse in their choices. And whatever the selection process, the theater community has accepted the terms. This is the eighth year, and the Iveys don't appear to be waning.

Only two recognitions repeat every year: Lifetime Achievement and Emerging Artist. Last year's excellent choices were the Jungle's Bain Boehlke and actor Anna Sundberg.

And this year? It's not as sure as the Vikings finishing in last place, but go ahead and bet a lot of money on Rick Shiomi. The coming year will be Shiomi's last season as artistic director of Mu Performing Arts, the organization he has been with for more than 20 years. Mu has become one of the nation's premier Asian-American theater troupes -- certainly the best between the coasts -- and Shiomi has been at its center. Through it all, Shiomi sought to elevate and advocate the Asian-American perspective on theater.

There are other deserving candidates. I am not sure what more Marion McClinton needs to do to be on the very short list (maybe he is). McClinton directs with clear vision and confidence, and his work feels lyrical and fluid. He has been at this craft for many decades and it is time to honor him.

I've mentioned Gary Gisselman's name before. Gisselman was founding director at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres in an era when local actors needed professional opportunities. And Gisselman is still active. James A. Williams still has a lot of living to do, but his life's work is filled with accomplishment. This would be a good year, given his triumph off-Broadway in Athol Fugard's "My Children! My Africa!"

As for Emerging Artist, Namir Smallwood's name has been around for eight years, but that only makes it more disturbing that he hasn't been mentioned before. His work in "The Brothers Size" and "Buzzer," both with Pillsbury House Theatre, shows what a serious and committed actor he is. Valeri Mudek used her substance in "Time Stands Still" at the Guthrie, taking a character who could be a bubblehead and turning her into a woman whose point of view needed to be considered. I've mentioned director Amy Rummenie's name before for her work with Walking Shadow Theatre Company. And actor Sara Richardson, also in "Buzzer," has raised her profile substantially.

Just my opinion.

Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299