Rick Shiomi, a writer, director and actor who has built one of the top Asian-American theater companies in the nation, was honored Monday night with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Ivey Awards, an annual celebration of Twin Cities theater.

Shiomi came to the Twin Cities in 1991 after several years of writing for Canadian TV in Vancouver. He was born in Toronto to parents who had been held in internment camps during World War II. That subject is evident in "Yellow Fever," a comedy that Shiomi wrote in 1982 and which he will direct again this season.

Shiomi helped build Theater Mu from scratch, persevering in a time when he could find few Asian-American actors in the Twin Cities. Now called Mu Performing Arts, the troupe has mounted large musical productions, developed numerous playwrights, directors and actors and begun an active taiko drumming program. Shiomi, 65, is retiring after this season as Mu's artistic director.

When he received his award, Shiomi invited everyone who had ever worked with Mu Performing Arts to join him onstage and was soon surrounded by more than 40 people. "I think I got this because I announced I was going to leave," he said. "But I'm not Brett Favre, so don't worry. Thank you."

Isabel Nelson received the Emerging Artist Award Monday night at the State Theatre in Minneapolis. Nelson is co-artistic director of the troupe Transatlantic Love Affair. She creates shows based on movement and myth, such as the recent Fringe Festival hit "Ash Land." Other work includes "The Ballad of the Pale Fisherman," which started at the Fringe and was given a full production at Illusion Theater. Nelson graduated from South High School in Minneapolis and Macalester College.

Other honorees

The Iveys honored four productions during the past year, and recognized six individuals for accomplishment:

Walking Shadow Theatre Company and Theater Latté Da both were cited for overall excellence. Walking Shadow produced "The Compleat Female Stage Beauty" by Twin Cities playwright Jeffrey Hatcher last spring at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage. Latté Da's staging of "Spring Awakening" used professional and university actors at the University of Minnesota.

Illusion's production of Nelson's "Pale Fisherman" was honored for emotional impact, and Theatre Unbound received recognition for inventive reinterpretation for an all-female staging of "Julius Caesar."

Three actors were honored, including two who played Judy Garland: British performer Tracie Bennett, who starred in "End of the Rainbow" at the Guthrie and Twin Cities actor Jody Briskey, who sang the role of Garland in "Beyond the Rainbow: Garland at Carnegie Hall" at St. Paul's History Theatre. Hugh Kennedy was chosen for his work in "Buzzer," an intense play produced by Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis.

Barry Browning received an Ivey for lighting design for "Dial M for Murder" at the Jungle Theater; Director Miriam Monasch was honored for "Our Class," a play about Polish classmates during World War II; Joe Vass won for musical direction for his work in "The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer," at Park Square Theatre.

The Iveys are based on evaluations performed by more than 150 volunteers who watched more than 1,000 performances in the past year. This was the eighth year of the event.

Graydon Royce • 612-673-72999