Michelle Hensley, whose Ten Thousand Things troupe has brought quality theater to underserved audiences in Minnesota jails, shelters and community centers for 25 years, received the Ivey Award for lifetime achievement Monday at the State Theatre in Minneapolis.
That accolade, selected by the artistic directors of other Twin Cities theaters, was among 11 awards presented Monday during a high-gloss ceremony. It marked a career-capping achievement for Hensley, who will step down as artistic director next year.
"You guys have said so many nice things about me," said Hensley, clearly humbled. She paid tribute to her ancestors, the artists she works with and the communities her company serves. She also called for the appointment of female arts leaders to positions that come open in the next five years in order to change the field.
Meghan Kreidler, currently starring in "The Man of La Mancha" at Theatre Latté Da, was honored with the Ivey for outstanding emerging artist. She thanked the many Twin Cities companies where she has worked, but especially Theater Mu, which helped her connect strongly with her Asian-American heritage.
Kreidler also was part of the Ivey-winning acting ensemble of "Vietgone," a hip-hop-inflected musical staged at Mixed Blood Theatre, along with Sun Mee Chomet and Sherwin Resurreccion, who also won Iveys for their performances in Theater Mu's production of "The Two Kids That Blow S — - Up."
Theatre Latté Da was honored with two Iveys — one for overall excellence for its revival of the melting-pot musical "Ragtime," and another for the clever design team behind "Six Degrees of Separation," John Guare's play about ambition and impersonation.
Pillsbury House co-artistic director Noël Raymond was honored for her directing work on "The Children," a human-and-puppet re-imagining of the Greek tragedy "Antigone."
Pillsbury House also figured in another award, for writer/actor Nilaja Sun's tour-de-force solo show "Pike St.," in which she evoked a whole community on Manhattan's Lower East Side.
Mixed Blood Theatre's "Safe at Home," a baseball-themed work staged in the locker rooms, press box and other locales around CHS Field in St. Paul, was recognized for the ambition of its conception and execution.
Veteran actor Steven Epp was given an Ivey for his starring role in Ten Thousand Things' revival of "Fiddler on the Roof."
Also honored was director Ben McGovern's production of "Wit," in which stalwart Twin Cities actor Sally Wingert shaved her head to play a cancer patient.
Presenters at this year's Iveys included artistic directors Joseph Haj of the Guthrie, Peter Brosius of Children's Theatre and Ron Peluso of History Theatre. Performers included Kasano Mwanza, who sang "Beauty School Dropout" from Chanhassen Dinner Theatres' "Grease." Excerpts from shows at Jungle and Frank theaters were performed.
The Iveys combine the spirit of the Tony Awards with a unique Minnesota touch that seeks to prevent hurt feelings. Those under consideration for awards are not announced in advance. And there are no fixed categories.
The awards were founded in 2004 by Scott Mayer, who stepped down from running the event last year.
The awards are now under the aegis of Arts Ink, a marketing and communications agency whose CEO, Amy Hawkins Newton, has been on the Ivey advisory board for 10 years.