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Iveys honor Illusion Theater directors; ‘Busytown’ to open at Children’s Theatre

ALSO: Crossing Borders Studio Tour on North Shore; supergroup the Cookers at the Dakota; William Souder reading at SubText; and more.

Michael Robins and Bonnie Morris will share this year’s Ivey Lifetime Achievement Award.
Courtesy of the Iveys

Michael Robins and Bonnie Morris will share this year’s Ivey Lifetime Achievement Award, the first time the honor has been split in the Iveys’ 10-year history. The two are co-producing directors of Illusion Theater, working together since Robins founded the theater in 1974. To date, Illusion has commissioned or developed more than 350 original mainstage plays. Together with other team members, Robins and Morris created Illusion’s Peer Education/Prevention program in 1977, including the award-winning play and video “Touch.” Morris has co-authored all of Illusion’s educational plays.

The Iveys were announced Monday night before a sold-out crowd at the State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. Young actor Tyler Michaels took the Emerging Artist Award, which surprised no one who saw him in “Cabaret” or “My Fair Lady.” Two productions were recognized for overall excellence, “Cabaret” (Theater Latté Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust) and “Ordinary Days” (Nautilus Music-Theater), while “Rose” (Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company) was cited for its intellect and emotional intensity. Individual recognitions went to Sally Wingert, who lit up several stages around town in “Rose,” “The Receptionist,” “Cabaret” and “Tribes”; the ensemble cast of the Jungle’s “Driving Miss Daisy”; Nathan Cousins and Tristan Tifft for “The 39 Steps” (Yellow Tree Theatre) and its director, Anne Byrd; playwright Seraphina Nova for “Dogwood” (Candid Theater Company); Eduardo Sicangco for his set design and costumes for “Cinderella” (Children’s Theatre Company); and Sandra Spieler and Julie Boada for properties design for “Between the Worlds” (In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre).

Each year’s Iveys are based on evaluations completed by more than 150 volunteer theater evaluators who see over 1,000 performances created by dozens of professional theaters in the Twin Cities metro. And how does one become one of those volunteer theater evaluators? Email and say you’re interested. You’ll need to attend a training session sometime in January. Theaters provide the tickets.

Held at the University of St. Thomas’s O’Shaughnessy Educational Center, now in its 20th year, MPR News’ Broadcast Journalist Series is a peek into the lives and work of top journalists. Three speakers have been scheduled for this fall. Next Thursday (Oct. 2): Pulitzer Prize winner John Branch, sports writer for the New York Times and author of “Boy on Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard.” Thursday, Oct. 30: David Green, host of NPR’s “Morning Edition,” former NPR foreign correspondent in Moscow and author of the forthcoming “Midnight in Siberia,” about his travels in Russia. Thursday, Nov. 13: Eric Deggans, NPR’s first full-time TV critic and author of “Race-Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation.” All are hosted by Tom Weber of MPR’s “The Daily Circuit.” FMI and tickets ($15/$12 MPR members). If you’re thinking, “Didn’t this series used to be free?” you’re right – it did. That went away last fall.

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The National Book Awards long list for poetry, announced last week, includes two Graywolf titles, Fanny Howe’s “Second Childhood” and Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen: An American Lyric.” Howe has been called “one of America’s most dazzling poets”; Rankine’s “Citizen” has been dubbed her “Spoon River Anthology.” The short list of 20 finalist books, five in each category (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature), will be announced Oct. 15 on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” The winners will be revealed at an awards ceremony and benefit dinner on Nov. 19. Last year’s poetry winner was “Incarnadine” by Graywolf author Mary Szybist. There’s been a lot of talk around this year’s lists and the paucity of titles from small/indie publishers, but Graywolf seems to be on everyone’s radar.

On sale now: tickets to Bob Odenkirk’s appearance at the Brave New Workshop’s ETC (Experimental Thinking Center) on Wednesday, Nov. 5. Along with starring as Saul Goodman in “Breaking Bad” (and the forthcoming “Better Call Saul”), Odenkirk is a comedy writer and author of “A Load of Hooey,” a collection of short humor pieces. He’ll do some standup, read from his book and sign copies. Your ticket includes a copy of the book. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 7:30. FMI and tickets ($40).

The concert by Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic Project scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 6 at the O’Shaughnessy as part of its Women of Substance series has been canceled. Tickets are being refunded.

The picks

Thursday at the Dakota: the Cookers. Tickets are still available to this jazz supergroup featuring Billy Harper, Eddie Henderson, David Weiss, Donald Harrison, George Cables, Cecil McBee and Billy Hart. In Hart’s words, “This is an extraordinary group of musicians. Most of these guys have 50 years’ worth of experience playing with the top musicians in the world.” Amen. At 49, trumpeter Weiss is the baby of the group. Here’s a behind-the-scenes video for their new album, “Time and Time Again.” 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30–$42).

Thursday at SubText Books: William Souder presents “Under a Wild Sky: John James Audubon and the Making of the Birds of America.” Environmentalist Bill McKibben calls Audubon’s bird drawings “foundational American documents.” That doesnt seem at all hyperbolic. A finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, Souder’s biography charts the life of a complex and driven man who reinvented himself. Originally published by North Point Press, now a Milkweed paperback. 7 p.m. Free.

Thursday through Sunday at the Children’s Theatre: “Busytown the Musical.” Huckle Cat, Mistress Mouse, Betsy Bear, Lowly Worm … If you’re a parent (or have parents of your own), you know these names. All are characters created by children’s author Richard Scarry, whose bright, jam-packed books are big favorites among small fry. For this Children’s Theatre production, Kevin Kling has adapted Scarry’s “What Do People Do All Day?” as a cabaret-style musical with puppets and people, co-writing lyrics with Michael Koerner, who wrote the music. Directed by Sean Graney. Recommended for grades K–4. Evening performances and matinees through Oct. 26. The show runs 80 minutes including a 15-minute intermission. FMI and tickets ($10–$48). Watch the videos; they’re fun. 

The weekend

Friday, Sept. 26: The PBS Fall Arts Festival begins with “Live from Lincoln Center: Sweeney Todd.” We’d suggest that you stay home for the next 10 Friday nights, but thanks to DVRs and streaming, appointment television is dead, and good riddance. The Fall Arts Festival line-up is full of delicious treats including this performance of Sondheim’s musical performed by Emma Thompson, the baritone Bryn Terfel and the New York Philharmonic. Check local listings.

Starts Friday, Sept. 26: Crossing Borders Studio Tour. One of the best excuses to head for the North Shore, this annual self-guided, spread-out tour invites you into the home studios of several artists, most of whom are also hosting invited guests. The whole tour takes you from Two Harbors to Hovland, from fused glass to functional stoneware and clay, wood, cast metal, hand-printed woodcuts and books, turned wood, leather, stone sculpture, prints, handwoven blankets and clothing, and Ojibwe art. Meet and greet the artists, enjoy the drive, watch the leaves turn color and bring home a little something – or a big something. This is high-quality work. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily through Sunday, Oct. 5. FMI and map.