Energetic and entrepreneurial, actor/playwright Kory LaQuess Pullam blew into public consciousness in a big way in 2017, showing himself to be not just a gifted artist but a voice to be reckoned with.

Onstage, he impressed as Hamlet at Park Square Theatre this fall, investing the melancholy prince with mercurial passion. In director Joel Sass' streamlined adaptation, Pullam brought welcome charisma and even some physical humor. He also was noteworthy as the sometime boyfriend of the lead in the musical "Girl Shakes Loose," premiered by Penumbra Theatre last spring.

Behind the scenes, his influence is being felt in two theater companies that he helped found. This past summer Underdog Theatre presented a one-act drama about a black family, "Odd Man Out," drawn from a trilogy that Pullam is writing. His play was a smash at the Minnesota Fringe Festival and won glowing notices ("taut, relatable and utterly convincing," wrote our reviewer). And the sharply observant comedy troupe Blackout Improv is now packing them in at Mixed Blood Theatre monthly.

Perhaps most significant, though, is that Pullam became a public voice on issues around race, equity and representation. When a refugee-themed play, "Refugia," premiered at the Guthrie with people of color mostly missing from the mix, Pullam wrote a thoughtful piece on the subject and was invited onto a panel discussion with Guthrie artistic director Joseph Haj.

In all, it was a remarkable year for the young Texas preacher's son (just 28) who moved to the Twin Cities four years ago for a Children's Theatre apprenticeship.

"What's that cliché — grab the bull by the horns?" he told the Star Tribune in October. "I'm in a position to serve the arts world and the larger community in positive ways. I'm trying to do the best I can now to be a liaison between people and their best selves."

Rohan Preston