$25,000 McKnight Theater Artist Fellowships Awarded to Ansa Akyea, Sha Cage, and Isabell Monk O'Connor06/15/2011
The Playwrights' Center today named Ansa Akyea, Shá Cage, and Isabell Monk O'Connor its 2011-12 McKnight Theater Artist Fellows.
The Playwrights' Center today named Ansa Akyea, Shá Cage, and Isabell Monk O'Connor its 2011-12 McKnight Theater Artist Fellows. Supported by The McKnight Foundation and administered by the Playwrights' Center, McKnight Theater Artist Fellowships recognize outstanding work by professional theater artists in Minnesota. Each fellow receives a cash grant of $25,000, funds for research and development of their work, opportunities to engage with Playwrights' Center programming, and any in-kind support the Center can provide.
"If you're a theatergoer in the Twin Cities (or around the country), you've no doubt been moved to laughter and tears by these incredible artists," said Playwrights' Center Producing Artistic Director Jeremy B. Cohen. "Their dedication to their craft has enriched the community greatly, and we're thrilled to join McKnight in recognizing and supporting these artists in this way."
The fellows were chosen by an independent panel of artists comprised of Michelle Hensley (Artistic Director, Ten Thousand Things Theatre Company), Paul Herwig (Co-Artistic Director, Off-Leash Area), Craig Johnson (actor), Suzy Messerole (Associate Artistic Director, History Theatre), and Rajendra Maharaj (Producing Artistic Director, Rebel Theater, NY).
"It speaks to the entire ecology of the art form and the richness of this community that all of these fellows have acted in work created by Playwrights' Center writers," said Cohen. "Playwrights can't thrive without artists of this caliber breathing life into their words, so to support the livelihood and future work of these Theater Artist Fellows is a real honor."
The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation, seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations. It represents one of the Playwrights' Center's longest and closest funding partnerships.
Ansa Akyea is an up-and-coming actor in the Twin Cities. He has worked on stage, film, the small screen, and from voice-overs to commercials. He has worked throughout the Midwest at Black Ensemble Theater, ETA, Steppenwolf Theatre, and many others. Locally he has worked at the Guthrie Theater, Penumbra Theatre, Children’s Theatre Company, Mixed Blood Theatre, the History Theatre, Frank Theatre, and many others. Ansa is proud to call the Playwrights’ Center his new artistic home. Ansa Akyea is a 2000 University of Iowa M.F.A. graduate.
Shá Cage is an actor, playwright, and performance artist. Noted theater roles include: Agnes in Mixed Blood's Agnes Under the Big Top, Helena in Frank Theatre's Eclipsed, The Bride in Ten Thousand Things' Blood Wedding, Venus in Frank Theatre's Venus, Tonia in the History Theatre's Kirby Puckett Story, Frank Theatre's F*cking A as Hester, and as Josephine in Mixed Blood's Ruined. The past few years for Cage marked regional and national print and television commercials, eight performance commissions, Twin Cities "Theater Artist of the Year" mentions for the past six lead roles, an international tour in England, and the female voice in Target's "Art Connects" national commercial campaign, launched on the '09 BET awards. She was invited to perform at the Media Reform Conference alongside Dan Rather and Amy Goodman, was named a 2009 "Changemaker" by the Women's Press, was named a Community Leader by the Loft's Equilibrium program, and won the Urban Griots "Female Spoken Word Artist of the Year" award. She is Artistic Director of the MN Spoken Word Association and a founder of Mama Mosaic Theater (for Women), and can be seen regularly in television commercials for such companies as Slumberland and AAA. Her work and performance have taken her all across the U.S., to South Africa, England, France, the Netherlands, Croatia, Mali, and Canada. Cornel West says of Cage's performance: "Inspiring and evocative!"
|Isabell Monk O'Connor's current roles include Escalus in Measure for Measure and Calpurnia in To Kill a Mockingbird at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Other theatres: Broadway: Antigone in The Gospel at Colonus, Execution of Justice. Regional: Gloucester in Lear, The Warrior Ant (Mabou Mines); Talking With, Rupert's Birthday (Actors Theatre of Louisville); Cincinnati Man, Cut Flowers (Mixed Blood Theater); The Watsons Go to Birmingham, A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings (The Children's Theatre Company) and more. Isabell Monk O'Connor has been a member of the Guthrie Theater acting company since 1981. International tours: The Gospel at Colonus, Talking With (Australia), Rupert's Birthday (Hungary). Film/TV: Intolerable Cruelty, Black Knight, Rosewood, Grumpy Old Men, Calamity Jane, Benson, Family Ties, We Ain't What We Was (one-woman show, PBS), among others. Children's books: Hope, Family (2001 Parent's Choice Honour Award), Blackberry Stew. Awards: Drama Desk Award (The Gospel at Colonus), Obie Award (Lear), 1998 McKnight Fellow, 1999 Twentieth Century Fox Fellow and more. Other: Stand-up comedy (The Improv); extensive volunteer work in Minneapolis schools to promote literacy; taught storytelling courses and residencies at the University of Minnesota, the Children's Theatre Company, and the Dowling School. Education: B.F.A., Towson State University; M.F.A.s, Yale School of Drama and the University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis.