Compiled by Jeremy van Meter
Before I moved to Minnesota to join the Commonweal company of artists, I was a free-lance actor in Chicago. I was blessed to be onstage many times with many different companies in my 9+ years there. One of the productions that I was cast in with Infamous Commonwealth Theatre, Cloud 9 by Caryl Churchill, was nominated for and received the After Dark Award for Outstanding Ensemble for the 2005-06 season. Not only was I a part of the ensemble accepting the award, but I was chosen by my castmates to give the acceptance speech at the ceremony. Of course, I promptly forgot those words after giving them but I did not, and will not, forget the emotion of that acceptance. And that is the key word—acceptance. In receiving any kind of award, there is an accompanying feeling of acceptance. That I have not simply won an award but through that award, what I am and what I do have been noticed and respected. For an artist, and more specifically a theatre artist, that response can be life-changing. In the actor’s life, there are recurring questions—”Why am I doing this” and “What is the point?” For a fleeting moment, accepting an award on a large scale like that of the After Dark in Chicago sends those questions packing. And it feels good. The acceptance and the acknowledgment that what I do is important and vital and will never be forgotten is invaluable. I recall that production of Cloud 9 quite well along with the amazing artists I created it with. With or without the award, I have that memory and that experience. That it was rewarded, publicly, is the icing on the cake.
It is now award season in the arts and theatre world in the state of Minnesota. This Monday evening, The Ivey Awards will be distributed at The State Theatre in Minneapolis. The Iveys celebrate the finest in the immediate area of the Twin Cities but several of our Commonweal “family members” have been honored with an Ivey in the past.
- Craig Johnson received an Ivey in 2011 for his direction of Street Scene with Girl Friday Productions. Commonweal alum Kirby Bennett (Sylvia) is Girl Friday’s Artistic Director. Craig was honored again in 2013, this time for his acting work in Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde. Craig’s most recent CWL credit is as director for this year’s When We Dead Awaken.
- Miriam Monasch was awarded an Ivey in 2012 as the director of Our Class at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company. Miriam directed Steel Magnolias for us this year and has stepped in to understudy in the role of Ouiser on several occasions for the production.
- Jeffrey Hatcher was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 ceremony. Jeffrey has adapted eight of Henrik Ibsen works for the CWL.
- Tod Petersen and Ryan Lee (Woody Guthrie’s American Song) will both be performers at the 2017 ceremony.
Finally, it is award season in our own neck of the woods as nominations for the 5th Annual Ardee Awards have been announced. The Ardees are sponsored by the Rochester Arts and Culture Trust and celebrate the best artistry in our region. In 2013, we received the inaugural Ardee Award for Outstanding Greater Rochester Arts Organization. This year, the CWL has been nominated in the category of People’s Choice for our version of The Elephant Man. Seven other events were nominated and those seven will be narrowed down to three through online voting. Those three are then the events for final consideration. We would deeply appreciate your vote, even if you were not able to experience this gorgeous piece of theatre. You may see the other nominations and cast your vote by visiting https://rochartstrust.org/. Voting ends Sept. 22 and the ceremony is Oct. 17.
Our true reward is our work and sharing that work with you. It is an honor to tell amazing stories day after day in an amazing place like Lanesboro, MN. Thank you for sharing our stories with us and truly accepting what we do.