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Queer Content and Creativity Shimmered Throughout the 2018 Twin Cities Theater Scene

by | Dec 20, 2018 | Arts & Culture, Featured - Home Page, Our Scene | 3 comments

Let’s get real. The blending of queer and non-queer collaborators in the service of artistic creation is fundamental. GLBT talent married with straight talent has forever given the world marvelous examples of artistry. It’s one area of society where the polarities melt into unity. For the longest time, however, queer-oriented plays were either in code or not even existent. But the tide could not be held back. Times have changed and there’s much more and varied GLBT representation.

One of this year’s most noticeable developments was that some of the best queer-themed playwriting of the decade was done right here in the Twin Cities by small, humble theater troupes—the Flannel Mafia Group and Uprising Productions. Both companies played at the Phoenix Theater, which has become a vital space for queer fare, as Patrick’s Cabaret ended its historic 32-year run this past year.

In 2018, there also seemed to be more richly drawn same-sex love relationships than have been seen. This is extremely important because gay representations of what goes right and what doesn’t in love are crucial for gay men and lesbians to absorb in order to enrich their understandings of romantic bonds in the complex world we live in. The more varied and many the representations, the better.

In pleasing contrast, larger companies, such as Artistry Theater, gave us gay icon Stephen Sondheim’s most difficult and beautiful work, Follies, exemplifying a gay man’s wise insights on hetero relationships. There were also two productions of gay renegade Jean Genet that chose to mine lesbian undercurrents in The Maids produced by Dark & Stormy and one by Phoenix Theater. Something also notable was the seamless integration of gay roles among a majority of straight roles in I Come From Arizona at Children’s Theatre and Gloria at Mixed Blood.

Cross-gender casting has perhaps never been so widely well done as over the past year, ranging from a 17th century classic like The Roaring Girl from Classical Actors Ensemble to the lyrical dat Black Mermaid Man Lady at Pillsbury House. Interracial love between women was wrenchingly portrayed in Park Square’s Cardboard Piano and vulnerably between men in Penumbra’s This Bitter Earth. Inversely, the deconstruction of masculinity in Dustin Bronson’s wrenching turn in Gremlin’s A Steady Rain and deconstruction of femininity in Katherine Ferrand’s seething turn in Frank Theatre’s The Visit, reminded us that the stage is ground zero for examining the complexity of gender roles, and that no matter what our sexual orientation or gender identity may be, such deconstruction is vital to understanding others.

It was also the centennial of the birth of gay musical giant, Leonard Bernstein, splendidly remembered in the Guthrie’s West Side Story revival and in the Dear Lenny revue from Chronofon at Open Eye Theatre. The Lavender Scare targeting those suspected of homosexuality during the McCarthy Era, which permeated the zeitgeist of the closeted Bernstein’s hey-day, was viscerally recalled in Minnesota Opera’s Fellow Travelers. That said, the unspoken nature of gayness even in our own supposedly open time was shrewdly conveyed in Mixed Blood’s Gloria. And as if it even needs to be said, GLBT talent likely runs through most major local theaters, so as they say… you never know!

Follies. Photo by Devon Cox

Best Productions

  1. Follies, Artistry Theater
  2. Noises Off, Guthrie Theater
  3. The Roaring Girl, Classical Actors Ensemble
  4. Room Enough, Flannel Mafia Theater Group
  5. Twisted Deaths, Uprising Productions
  6. Awake and Sing!, Artistry Theater
  7. West Side Story, Guthrie Theater
  8. Peter and Alice, Candid Theater
  9. Hand to God, Jungle Theater
  10. (3-Way Tie) Denial, Segue Productions

            Is God Is, Mixed Blood Theatre

           The Tempest, Theatre Coup d’Etat

Dear Lenny. Photo by Dan Norman

Opera Production of the Year
Fellow Travelers, Minnesota Opera

Theater Artists of the Year
-Bradley Greenwald, Actor-Performer, Dear Lenny: Bernstein’s Life in Songs & Letters, Open Eye Figure Theatre/Chronofon Productions; Follies, Artistry Theater; Nutcracker (not so) Suite, James Sewell Ballet
-Kiara Jackson, Actress, Cardboard Piano, Park Square Theatre & The Miracle Worker, Yellow Tree Theatre
-Sally Wingert, Actress, ‘night Mother, Dark & Stormy Productions & Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Noises Off, Guthrie Theater

Noises Off. Photo by Dan Norman

Opera Performance of the Year
Seth Carico, Dead Man Walking, Minnesota Opera

Best Direction
-Meredith McDonough, Noises Off, Guthrie Theatre
-Benjamin McGovern, Awake and Sing! and Follies, Artistry Theater

Taking Shakespeare. Photo by Sarah Bauer

Best Actresses
-Muriel Bonertz, Denial, Segue Productions
-Meri Golden, Peter and Alice, Candid Theater & The Tempest, Theatre Coup d’Etat

Electricity. Photo by Mike Pingel

Superior Actresses
-Katherine Ferrand, The Visit, Frank Theatre
-Kate Guentzel, Awake and Sing!, Artistry
-Linda Kelsey, Taking Shakespeare, Gremlin Theatre
-Greta Oglesby, Last Stop on Market Street, Children’s Theatre Company
-Austene Van, West of Central, Pillsbury House Theatre

Hype Man. Photo by Paul Fox

Best Actors
-Dustin Bronson, A Steady Rain, Gremlin Theatre
-Aleks Knezevich, Disney’s Newsies, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

Room Enough. Photo by Sara Pillatzki-Warzeha

Superior Actors
-Peter Hansen, Dial M for Murder, Gremlin Theatre
-Marc Koeck, West Side Story, Guthrie Theater
-Riley O’Toole, Hand to God, Jungle Theater
-John A.W. Stephens, Taking Shakespeare, Gremlin Theatre
-David Wasserman, Peter and Alice, Candid Theater

Newsies. Photo by Rich Ryan Photography

Best Supporting Actresses
-Catie Bair, The Miracle Worker, Yellow Tree Theatre
-Holly Windle, Twisted Deaths, Uprising Theatre

Hamilton. Photo by Joan Marcus

Outstanding Supporting Actresses
-Joy Dolo, Is God Is, Mixed Blood Theatre
-Deb Haas, Princess Ida, The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company
-Katherine Kupiecki, Ideation, Gremlin Theatre
-Kelly Nelson, Marisol, Theatre Coup d’Etat & The Maids, Phoenix Theater
-Wendy Short-Hays, Follies, Artistry Theater

The Tempest. Photo by Craig James Hostetler

Best Supporting Actors
-Scott Gilbert, Room Enough, Flannel Mafia Theatre Group
-Peter Simmons, Equivocation, Walking Shadow Theatre & Romeo and Juliet, Park Square Theatre

Superior Supporting Actors
-Paul R. Coate, Follies, Artistry Theater
-Craig Hostetler, Marisol, Theatre Coup d’Etat
-Duane O. Koivisto, Denial, Segue Productions
-Kirkaldy Myers, Is God Is, Mixed Blood Theatre
-Matt Saxe, Peter and Alice, Candid Theater

Best Gender Non-Conforming Performances
-Tovah Feldshuh, Dancing With Giants, Illusion Theater
-Meredith Kind, The Roaring Girl, Classical Actors Ensemble
-Kenyai O’Neal, dat Black Mermaid Man Lady, Pillsbury House Theatre

Superior Gender Non-Conforming Performances
-McKenna Kelly-Eiding, Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, Park Square Theatre
-PaviElle French, dat Black Mermaid Man Lady, Pillsbury House Theatre
-Gabriel Murphy, The Visit, Frank Theatre
-Anthony Neuman, Twisted Deaths, Uprising Theatre
-Mohamed Yabdri, The Visit, Frank Theatre

Best Romantic Chemistry
-Kiara Jackson & Adelin Phelps, Cardboard Piano, Park Square Theatre
-Charliey Libra & Colton Moyer, Room Enough, Flannel Mafia Theatre Group
-Kevin Fanshaw & Jon-Michael Reese, This Bitter Earth, Penumbra Theatre
-Sha Cage & Quinn Franzen, Familiar, Guthrie Theater

Best Antagonistic Chemistry
-Elijah Alexander & Zachary Fine, Frankenstein: Playing With Fire, Guthrie Theater
-Catie Bair & Kiara Jackson, The Miracle Worker, Yellow Tree Theatre
-Nichole Carey & Katie Starks, The Maids, Phoenix Theater
-Kathryn Fumie & Tom Reed, Gloria, Mixed Blood Theatre

Best Multi-Character Performances
-Ricardo Beaird, Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, Park Square Theatre
-Seth Matz, The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, Uprising Theatre

Notable Performances
-Jennifer Blagen, The Wolves, Jungle Theater
-Pearce Bunting, The Great Society, History Theatre
-Heather Burmeister, Wait Until Dark, Theatre in the Round
-Sabrina Diehl, Marisol, Theater Coup d’Etat
-Julie Ann Greif, The Bassett Table, Persistent Theatre Productions
-Brian Joyce, Ideation, Gremlin Theatre
-Jeffrey Haas, Hot Funky Butt Jazz, Interact Theatre
-John Heimbuch, Equivocation, Walking Shadow Theatre Company
-Paul LaNave, Romeo and Juliet, Park Square Theatre
-Tracey Maloney, Hand to God, Jungle Theater
-Jason Rojas, Romeo and Juliet, Park Square Theatre
-Mike Tober, The Metromaniacs, Theatre in the Round Players

Best Productions from Out of Town
-Corteo, Cirque du Soleil
-Electricity, The Cabaret at Camp Bar
-Hamilton, Hennepin Theatre Trust
-The Humans, Hennepin Theatre Trust
-Hype Man, Boston’s Company One Theatre at Mixed Blood Theatre

Best Performances from Out of Town
-Richard Thomas, The Humans, Hennepin Theatre Trust
-Mel England, Electricity, The Cabaret at Camp Bar

Best Choreography
-Tamara Kangas Erickson, Disney’s Newsies, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
-Kelli Foster Warder, Five Points, Theater Latte Da

Best Music Direction
-Mark Hartman, West Side Story, Guthrie Theater
-Anita Ruth, Follies, Artistry Theater

Best Stage Combat Direction
-Annie Enneking, Equivocation, Walking Shadow Theatre Company
-Doug Scholz-Carlson, Romeo and Juliet, Park Square Theatre

Best Vocal Dialogue Coaching
-Keely Woolter, Awake and Sing!, Artistry Theater
-Kari Steinbach, The Metromaniacs, Theatre in the Round Players

Best Set Design
-Small House: Andrew Lester, The Maids, Phoenix Theater
-Large House: Kate Sutton-Johnson, Noises Off, Guthrie Theater

Best Costume Design
-Small Troupe: Kathy Kohl, The Visit, Frank Theatre
-Large Troupe: Raquel Barreto, Frankenstein: Playing With Fire, Guthrie Theater

Best Lighting Design
-Small House: Jake Otto, Twisted Deaths, Uprising Theatre & Carl Schoenborn, A Steady Rain, Gremlin Theatre
-Large House: Bradley King, West Side Story, Guthrie Theater

Best Achievement in Repertory Ensemble and Design
-Measure for Measure in repertory with Women Beware Women, Classical Actors Ensemble

Best Music and Soundscape Compositions
-John Hilsen, The Minotaur: or Amelia Earhart is Alive and Traveling in the Underworld, Sheep Theater
-Mankwe Ndosi, dat Black Mermaid Man Lady, Pillsbury House Theatre

Best New Musical Score and Lyrics
-Aaron Gabriel, Hot Funky Butt Jazz, Interact
-Ethan Pakchar & Douglas Lyons (music) & Douglas Lyons (lyrics), Five Points, Theater Latte Da

Best Sound Design
-Andrew Mayer, Awake and Sing!, Artistry Theater
-Peter Morrow, Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, Park Square Theatre

Best New Playwriting
-Shannon TL Kearns, Twisted Deaths, Uprising Theatre
-Robb Krueger, Room Enough, Flannel Mafia Theatre Group

Outstanding New Playwriting
-Christina Ham, West of Central, Pillsbury House Theatre
-Sammi Pfeffer, The Children’s Play, Gadfly Theatre
-Harrison David Rivers, This Bitter Earth, Penumbra Theatre & the book for Five Points, Theater Latte Da

Outstanding New Musical Adaptation
-Cheryl L. West, adaptor of Last Stop on Market Street, from Matt de la Pena’s book; music and lyrics by Lamont Dozier and Paris Ray Dozier, Children’s Theatre Company

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