Playwrights’ Center and the McKnight Foundation are pleased to announce the 2023–24 McKnight Theater Artist Fellows: D J Gramann II, Darrick Mosley, and Karin Olson. These fellowships recognize and support mid-career artists (other than playwrights) living and working in Minnesota who demonstrate a sustained level of accomplishment, commitment, and attributes of artistic merit.
“These three brilliant Minnesota-based artists each play a vital role in our theater community,” says Playwrights’ Center Producing Artistic Director Jeremy B. Cohen. “I’m especially pleased that this year’s incredible artists each represent a different discipline, and that, as a group, their artistry is so vital both onstage and off to create compelling theater.”
For all three artists, this recognition is a valuable affirmation of their work. Lighting designer Karin Olson highlights that “fellowships like this are a crucial acknowledgment for theater designers like me. So often, we move on to other projects before the opening night applause, and our contributions aren't mentioned in the reviews because our art exists to support the work of others. It’s such a confidence boost to spend a few minutes in the spotlight instead of aiming it!”
Costume artisan D J Gramann II also reflects on how this fellowship will allow him to step back from that pressure to continually “move on”: “The gig economy has its churn, juggling gigs due to the uncertainty of future gigs. The pandemic shutdown reinforced this uncertainty. The McKnight Theater Artist Fellowship at the Playwrights’ Center will allow me a respite from the churn with time, energy, and a budget to take a deeper dive into my creative origins.”
Actor Darrick Mosley shares this enthusiasm to explore his creativity: “This fellowship will provide space in my life to continue my artistic expansion and to be an agent for change through my artistry.”
Cohen elaborates on the ways that each of these artists serve the Twin Cities theatrical community: “Darrick has generated an intense and accomplished body of work in a relatively short period of time, but one that is filled with deep and powerful performances. Karin is that lighting designer who so many theaters call first, because she is utterly dedicated to the idea of Community. She can adapt her work to different scales, making her especially important for small and mid-size theaters. D J’s work as a costume technician can so easily go unnoticed because it blends into the productions on which he works, but it’s remarkable to hear actors, designers, and directors all talk about how extraordinary his work is. And just how extraordinary he is.”
The McKnight Theater Artist Fellows are selected based on their commitment to theater arts, evidence of professional achievement, and a sustained level of artistic merit. The $25,000 fellowship is intended to significantly advance recipients’ art and careers.
Recent recipients include: Sarah Agnew, Ansa Akyea, Barry Browning, Bart Buch, Shá Cage, Sun Mee Chomet, James Craven, Marcus Dilliard, Scott W. Edwards, Katharine Horowitz, Masanari Kawahara, Meghan Kreidler, Kurt Kwan, Elise Langer, Mathew LeFebvre, Jim Lichtscheidl, Christopher Lutter-Gardella, Greta Oglesby, Sonja Parks, Denise Prosek, Joel Sass, Kate Sutton-Johnson, Austene Van, Michael Wangen, Abbee Warmboe, Wendy Weckwerth, Talvin Wilks, James A. Williams, Sally Wingert, and Stephen Yoakam.
Costume artisan D J Gramann II is passionate about clothes, their means of construction, and their uses throughout global history. A generative and collaborative maker of character with particular affinity for the avant-garde, he has worked as a contributing artist to the Twin Cities theater arts community for over two decades, a draper/tailor at the Guthrie Theater, at Jim Henson Productions, and at numerous Broadway costume houses. He holds a BFA in Costume Technology and Design from the North Carolina School of the Arts, a Master’s in Arts and Cultural Leadership from the University of Minnesota and serves on the board at Mixed Blood Theatre.
Darrick Mosley is a Twin Cities based actor. He attended the historic Grambling State University where he received a BA in Speech & Theatre. His theater credits include: Penumbra Theatre: Benevolence, Jitney, The Ballad of Emmett Till; Guthrie Theater: A Raisin in the Sun, To Kill a Mockingbird, Choir Boy; History Theatre: Parks, The Great Society, All the Way, The Highwaymen; Pillsbury House Theatre: What To Send Up When It Goes Down; Park Square Theatre: The Humans. He is a collaborator of I Act Co. supporting leaders and teams in advancing their diversity, equity, and inclusion goals within their organizations.
Karin Olson is a Minneapolis-based lighting designer with credits at the Minnesota Opera (Song Poet), Children’s Theater (Spamtown USA!), Guthrie, the Ordway, Park Square, Mixed Blood, History Theater, among many others. She has designed nationally for Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Count of Monte Cristo), Cleveland Playhouse (Antigone), Trinity Rep (A Christmas Carol, Fuente Ovejuna), and Syracuse Stage. She loves new works and lighting dance with BRKFST Dance, Alternative Motion Project, Combustible Company, and Threads Dance. Favorite recent designs include Redwood at the Jungle Theater, Paradise and We Are Cosmic at the Southern and HERbeat with Taiko Arts Midwest at the Ordway.