Photos by Galen Fletcher

Photos by Galen Fletcher

We're thrilled to announce that frequent Open Eye collaborator and our dear friend Maren Ward was recognized with two EXCEPTIONAL INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE awards at the MN Theater Awards on Sept. 24, 2018!

She was recognized for her performances in CONSTANCE IN THE DARKNESS: A MUSICAL IN MINIATURE at Open Eye as well as Walking Shadow Theatre Company's production of HATCHET LADY!

Maren's incredible, hilarious, and tear-jerking performances as five different characters (The Storyteller, Fairy Godmother, Bobo, Queen Harmonica, and Mother) in CONSTANCE is a big reason the show was such a huge success. Congratulations on this well-deserved award, Maren! 

Maren Ward has also played Father Winter in The Holiday Pageant and Jackie in To the Moon at Open Eye. She co-founded and operated Bedlam Theatre from 1993–2016. Her other credits include In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater, Theater Novi Most, Theater Unbound, Footprints/Wonderlust, Frank Theater, and Ten Thousand Things. Maren directs the zAmya Theater Project, a theater company that makes plays about homelessness with people who’ve experienced it.

Announcing our Fall/Winter 2018 Season!

Join us for a unique, eclectic season of artist-driven programming celebrating and showcasing emerging and established artists! Featuring the return of Michael Sommers’ surreal creation A PRELUDE TO FAUST, adventurous new work by artists in our FUSEBOX residency program, performances by audience favorites Kevin Kling and Bradley Greenwald, and a first-ever “haunted house” Halloween event in our cellar created by Joel Sass.

Kimberly Richardson receives "Performer of the Year" recognition from Lavender Magazine

 Kimberly Richardson in The Red Shoes. Photo by Mark Vancleave.

Kimberly Richardson in The Red Shoes. Photo by Mark Vancleave.

Congratulations to Kimberly Richardson on receiving "Performance of the Year" from Lavender Magazine for her role in The Red Shoes this year!

"This was quite an achievement for 2017," says director and creator Joel Sass. "An against-all-odds mash-up of Hans Christian Andersen, film noir, Raymond Chandler, and the miniature murder doll houses of Frances Glessner Lee... The glue that held it together was my artistic co-creator and muse, Kimberly Richardson! Very excited for another visit to this mysterious apartment in 2018—stay tuned!"

Read more. 

Director Joel Sass Joins Open Eye Figure Theatre as Associate Producer


Open Eye is proud to announce the addition of director and designer Joel Sass to its leadership team. Effective immediately, Sass joins the team as Associate Producer.

Joel Sass is a stage director, designer, and adapter based in Minneapolis, where he has worked since 1990, specializing in the creation of new work for the stage and devising imaginative reinterpretations of classic plays. Recently, Sass has directed three productions at Open Eye—the Ivey Award-winning Nothing is Something in 2015, Kevin Kling’s Greatest Hits and Juicy Bits in 2016, and The Red Shoes in 2017, which he also conceived, wrote, and designed.

As Associate Producer, Sass will work alongside Open Eye Executive Artistic Director/Founder Susan Haas to design and manage the theatre’s eclectic programming as well as oversee daily operations for the company. He will also become the company’s second in-house,  Artist-in-Residence (Michael Sommers being the first) as Open Eye will continue to support his artistic goals.

The addition of an Associate Producer to the Open Eye staff allows the organization to increase capacity to further program development, and expand services for both artists and communities building on the solid organizational foundation.

“I am incredibly thrilled and energized to have Joel join our team,” says Sue Haas. “I look forward to working with him for his leadership, creative innovation, and strong business sense as we plan the future of Open Eye.”

“For years I’ve been a huge fan of the work of Open Eye, and of co-founders Michael Sommers and Susan Haas,” says Joel Sass. “Open Eye perfectly exemplifies the high artistic standards, deep community impact, and national outreach of an artist-centered and run organization that has a unique vision and operates with passion and integrity. Some of my most gratifying creative exploits have occurred at Open Eye, and I’m thrilled to join their team and be involved in the exciting work of producing, season planning, marketing and helping to explore the always-evolving future of this jewel of the Twin Cities art scene.”

Sass has directed and designed more than 20 award-winning productions at the acclaimed Jungle Theatre. Joel has also directed and/or designed at the Guthrie Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, California Shakespeare Theater, Theatre de la June Lune, Arizona Theatre Company, Park Square Theatre, the University of Minnesota, Mixed Blood Theatre, Macalester College, Ananya Dance Theatre, Theatre-In-The-Round, Starting Gate, Gremlin Theatre, Frank Theater, and many others. Sass co-founded the award-winning Mary Worth Theatre Company in Minneapolis in 1994.

Read more about Joel Sass at

Michael Sommers Receives Horace T. Morse-University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education

 Michael Sommers. Photo by Patrick O' Leary

Michael Sommers. Photo by Patrick O' Leary

We're proud to announce that Open Eye's Artist-in-Residence and Co-Founder Michael Sommers has received the Horace T. Morse-University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education. Michael is an Associate Professor in the University's Theatre Arts & Dance department.

In his 34-year career to date, Michael has generated more than fifty internationally recognized theatrical productions, probing the dark conflicts and the joys of being human. At the University, he has translated his unique vision into the curricular arts where he serves as mapmaker, provocateur, and mentor. He structures collaborative environments of serious and focused play that celebrate the act of making, inspiring students to work with their hands, imaginations, and intellects to realize their own creative process.

According to the University, "This honor is awarded to exceptional candidates nominated by colleges in their quest to identify excellence in undergraduate education. In addition to honoring individual faculty members, the award contributes to the improvement of undergraduate education at the University by publicizing their work to serve as a resource for the whole faculty." Learn more.

As part of this prestigious recognition, Michael's name will be added to the University's Scholars Walk.

The Red Shoes Reviews

 Kimberly Richardson. Photo by Galen Fletcher.

Kimberly Richardson. Photo by Galen Fletcher.

The reviews are rolling in for The Red Shoes!

"Richardson has a ball, posing like Dietrich, clowning like Chaplin and dancing like Shearer herself." - Graydon Royce, Star Tribune

"The Red Shoes is something so curious and unique, odd and chilling, inventive and charming, it's thoroughly captivating from start to finish." - Jill Schaefer, Cherry and Spoon

"Probably the best adjective to describe 'The Red Shoes' is 'intricate.' It’s a pleasing puzzlement with lots of moving parts, a story that constantly morphs in scale and a staging that keeps you guessing." - Dominic Papatola, Pioneer Press

"The dark, quirky fun of this play is akin to the fun of playing with mechanical toys instead of digital/virtual ones. So visceral!" - Janet Preus, How Was the Show

"She’s wonderful to watch; even during the more eerie moments, you don’t want to look away. Impressive as Richardson is, shoutouts must go to our backstage performers (Ariane Mass, Rick Miller, and Noah Sommers Haas) who make some of the play’s sleight of hand possible." - Tierney Chlan, Say Entirely

"Sass's genius for detailed settings and props, and for making them a dynamic presence rather than a static backdrop for a show, and Richardson's angular physicality and poised comic timing result in a show that is a delight to behold." - Arty Dorman, Talkin' Broadway

"It's a delirious, giddy, enthralling, terrific piece of theater that isn't going to make complete sense without some thought after. Even then, the exact meaning is somewhat obscured. So be it. Life in the big city doesn't always make sense, even when you are dressed to kill with your best red shoes on." - Ed Huyck, Massed Gadgets of Hercules

"Richardson’s breadth of vocal variations throughout is uniquely masterful. Moreover, she unifies that vocal prowess with physical movement that kinetically pulses, stretches, contorts, and flows. The result is a highly concentrated tour de force that moves with comic velocity and ricochets with mercurial electricity throughout a woman’s paranoid subconscious. Indeed, this is a courageously miraculous portrayal." - John Townsend, Lavender Magazine