Rick Shiomi honored with Lifetime Achievement. (Photo by Lia Chang)
MINNEAPOLIS (Sept. 24, 2012) — The Twin Cities theater community honored Rick Shiomi with its Lifetime Achievement Award Monday at the historic State Theater.
Shiomi was awarded an Ivey Award for Lifetime Achievement Monday, during an annual celebration of Twin Cities’ professional theater. The eighth annual event was hosted by Shanan Custer, to honor and showcase the work of professional theater companies and artists from the past year.
Shiomi is an accomplished playwright, taiko drummer, and community organizer who went on to co-founded Mu Performing Arts in 1992. Mu has since become one of the largest Asian-American theater companies in the United States.
Now as its Artistic Director, Shiomi continues to lead the local and national development of Asian American theater and taiko. Mu has since become a magnet for regional and national Asian American performers, directors and writers.
“This award is truly a recognition of the talented performers, writers and directors that have gathered at Mu,” Shiomi said. “It’s only through many wonderful Mu productions such as Into The Woods, Little Shop of Horrors, Yellow Face, Asiamnesia and Flower Drum Song that a company such as Mu Performing Arts can have the impact warranting such recognition.”
Founded in 1992, Mu is composed of Theater Mu, which offers stage performances, and Mu Daiko, a taiko drumming ensemble. Through Shiomi’s leadership, Mu has helped to develop and support the work of local and national playwrights, actors, directors, and musicians by premiering many new works, fostering a new generation of Asian American artists, and bringing Asian American voices to Twin Cities audiences.
As a playwright, Shiomi has written a number of plays, including Mask Dance, The Tale of the Dancing Crane, The Hmong Tiger Tales, and The Walleye Kid, which he also adapted into a musical. Shiomi has been recognized with a 2002 Asian-Pacific Leadership Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Arts from the State of Minnesota Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans and the Sally Award for Vision in 2008.
Isabel Nelson was also honored with the Ivey Emerging Artist Award. She is a performer, director and theatre creator.
Based on evaluations completed by the more than 150 volunteer theater evaluators who saw more than 1,000 performances in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area from September 2011 through August 2012, four productions and six individuals were also recognized with 2012 Iveys.
In the Productions category, honors were presented to:
• The Compleat Female Stage Beauty, Walking Shadow Theatre Company: Overall Excellence
• Spring Awakening, Theatre Latte Da: Overall Excellence
• The Ballad of the Pale Fisherman, Illusion Theater: Emotional Impact
• Julius Caesar, Theatre Unbound: Inventive Reinterpretation
In the Individual Recognition category, honors went to:
• Tracie Bennett, Acting, End of the Rainbow (Guthrie Theater)
• Hugh Kennedy, Acting, Buzzer (Pillsbury House Theatre)
• Jody Briskey, Acting, Beyond the Rainbow: Garland at Carnegie Hall (History Theatre)
• Barry Browning, Lighting Design, Dial M for Murder (Jungle Theater)
• Miriam Monasch, Directing, Our Class (Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company)
• Joe Vass, Musical Direction, The Soul of Gershwin: The Musical Journey of an American Klezmer (Park Square Theatre)
The Iveys are unique among awards events in the country in that they are open to the public and that there are no nominees, set number of awards or pre-determined award categories, with the exception of the Lifetime Achievement and the Emerging Artist Awards. The artists and organizations receiving special recognition are selected from evaluations completed by the general public and the volunteer theater evaluators. Each participating theater receives a vote to determine the Lifetime Achievement and Emerging Artist Awards.
The 8th annual Ivey Awards was presented with the generous support of Best Buy, Target, Walser Automotive, McKnight Foundation, Diversified Growth Investors, Dorsey & Whitney, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, Barnes & Thornburg, Helmuth & Johnson, Trinchero Family Estates Winery, Actors’ Equity Association, J.P. Morgan, Arts Ink, Cities 97, City Pages, Arts & Custom Publishing, Metro Magazine, Risdall Marketing Group, Level, Bacardi, Tiger Beer, Joia All Natural Soda, D’Amico Kitchen, 2 Gingers, Le Meridien Chambers Hotel, Clear Channel Outdoor, martinpatrick3, and William Clark Photography.
Shiomi’s award comes shortly after directing Mu’s recent summer production of Into the Woods. Mu’s take on the classic musical was the highest grossing production in its 20-year history. It premiered its first annual New Eyes Festival of staged readings at Intermedia Arts in downtown Minneapolis.
Since that time, Mu Performing Arts has grown to become one of the largest Asian American performing companies in the nation, garnering critical acclaim and a burgeoning audience base along the way. Mu’s company model is unique in North America in that it encompasses both a taiko drumming ensemble (Mu Daiko) and a professional theater company (Theater Mu).
Mu’s recently announced mainstage season includes their annual taiko concert Mu Daiko at the Cowles Center, a world premiere commission, The Tiger Among Us by Lauren Yee and culminates with R.A. Shiomi’s Yellow Fever (March 9-24, 2013).
Shiomi will direct his noir comedy in the Dowling Studio at the Guthrie Theater.
Yellow Fever launched Shiomi’s theatrical career when it was produced Off-Broadway in 1982. Later produced at Theater Mu in 1994, the plot follows Sam Shikaze, a Japanese Canadian detective in Vancouver as he attempts to solve the disappearance of the Cherry Blossom Queen.
Along the way Shikaze wrestles with bitter memories of the internment of Japanese-Canadians, racist organizations and an unexpected romance. New York Times theater critic Mel Gussow said the show “scores both as parody and a comedy mystery” and selected it as a Critic’s Choice.
The cast includes Mu regulars Kurt Kwan (Sam Shikaze), Sara Ochs, and Eric Sharp, as well as Wade Vaughn and others. Yellow Fever will mark the fourth Mu production to be presented in the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio.
Tickets are available for Mu Daiko at the Cowles Center and Yellow Fever.