In the theater world, tried-and-true plays and grandiose venues usually garner all the attention.
However, on June 5 the 2005 Regional Theatre Tony Award will be given to the innovative, Minneapolis-based Theatre de la Jeune Lune.
The accolade proves that, in the eyes of the industry’s most prestigious awards body, bigger isn’t necessarily better.
“What winning this award says is that the work of a small company is valued as highly as the work of a large company – and we are smaller than almost anyone else who has ever won a Regional Tony,” said Steve Richardson, Theatre de la Jeune Lune producing director.
The Regional Theatre Tony Award is the only Tony given to a theater not based in New York’s Broadway district. It is a national honor awarded for “continuing artistic achievement” by a regional company.
Though Jeune Lune has had its headquarters in a Minneapolis warehouse space since 1985, the company’s out-of-state tours and recent increased visibility likely contributed to the win, Richardson said.
“The traveling has heated up in the last few years. We’ve taken a more aggressive stance in bringing our work to theaters all over the country,” he said.
Richardson added that their recent mobility has “re-energized” their relationship with many well-known theaters, creating continued opportunities for travel.
In addition to its location in a city “off the beaten track,” Richardson said the recognition is important because Jeune Lune strives to produce original work, unlike some other theater companies.
Its five artistic directors work on individual projects, while also working as a team. This artistic team includes Dominique Serrand, Vincent Gracieux, Robert Rosen, Steven Epp and Barbra Berlovitz.
Jeune Lune’s recent win ties Minneapolis with Chicago for the city with the highest number of theaters receiving regional Tony awards. The Twin Cities and Chicago now each have three; previous Minneapolis winners include The Guthrie Theater in 1982 and The Children’s Theatre Company in 2003.
Children’s Theatre artistic director Peter Brosius said the Children’s Theatre was “giddy” when they heard of Jeune Lune’s Tony win.
He agreed with Richardson that the award had special significance because, like the Children’s Theatre, Jeune Lune demonstrates a “commitment to new work”.
“We couldn’t wait to call and send balloons,” he said. “The win is a testament to the incredible vibrancy of the theater community in Minnesota.”