History

Michael Robins and Bonnie Morris have worked in the lllusionTheater since 1974, and have led the organization for over forty years.

Illusion produces 6 to 10 new works each year in their theater, providing opportunities for over 100 artists each year. In their Education Program Illusion works in partnership with schools and service providers to use theater to develop healthy youth. Illusion also designs programs for corporations to help employees examine issues that affect them in the workplace, in their families and their neighborhoods.

An early logo for Illusion

An early logo for Illusion

Bonnie Morris and Michael Robins in Illusion's adaptation of Virginia Woolf's novel Orlando in 1977.

Bonnie Morris and Michael Robins in Illusion's adaptation of Virginia Woolf's novel Orlando in 1977.

Lee Blessing's For The Loyal with Michael Fell , Mark Rosenwinkel,  Anna Sundberg, Sam Bardwell and Garry Geiken.After its 2015 premiere production at Illusion it was published by Dramatist's Play Service .

Lee Blessing's For The Loyal with Michael Fell , Mark Rosenwinkel,  Anna Sundberg, Sam Bardwell and Garry Geiken.After its 2015 premiere production at Illusion it was published by Dramatist's Play Service .

Since the beginning, Illusion Theater has commissioned or developed over 500 original Mainstage plays that have been seen by more than ___ million people.


About Our Name -Illusion

Many people have asked how did Illusion become the theater's name?

Well, we have to go to Paris for the answer. 

Michael had lived and worked there for over four years. When he returned to Minnesota he was invited to do workshops at the Guthrie, CTC, Minnesota Dance Theater Companies and the University of Minnesota. Bonnie first met Michael at one of these workshops. 

He was asked to share what he had learned while studying with the French master Etienne Decroux and with the Polish Mime Theater's renowned leading actress Ella Jarociewxz. In Paris, Michael with other students including Carol Harris Lipschultz and Mary McDevitt, had presented a performance about illusions - in french the word has many meanings - make believe, to be under an illusion, to be in the realm of illusion, a trick of light, a delusion, to have no illusions, the opposite of  truth - an illusion, or an impossible reality.  

Michael approached The Walker Art Center's Performance Arts Series run by the formidable Suzanne Weil to see if he could present the work he had performed in Paris here. She offered a slot in the Walker's season. When the PR folks asked  "What are the pieces about ?" Michael replied , "They are about illusions, illusions of life, about society,  about the perceived universe and the unseen world." He continued,  "having come from Paris, I was still thinking in French, in the 'franglish' understanding of the word 'illusion.'" 

The  idea of exposing our illusions and exploring what they mean, and in that way revealing  illusions continues to be the work of the Theater. 


Plays developed at Illusion have been staged by more than 40 theaters across the United States, including major regional theaters such as the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, the Goodman Theater in Chicago, and the Manhattan Theater Club. Illusion productions have received IVEY awards;____ plays have been made into motion picture; ___ have been published. One was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Two plays have been finalists for the American Critics Association Best New Play. 


Miss Richfield 1981, Russ King's creation is a Beauty Queen in high heels and even higher hair. She first appeared on Illusion's stage in the Fresh Ink Series. Now she hosts her annual " Holiday Prog'rum" at Illusion, where her homemade videos, her malapropisms, her keen political jabs and the fun she has with her "volunteers" has made her show a not-to-be-missed Twin Cities holiday tradition.

 Jackson Hurst Dennis Spears, Julius Collins and T Mychael Rambo in Always and Forever.

 Jackson Hurst Dennis Spears, Julius Collins and T Mychael Rambo in Always and Forever.

The TOUCH for the Next Generation Company in the  newly updated  film of TOUCH.

The TOUCH for the Next Generation Company in the  newly updated  film of TOUCH.


In 1978, Illusion pioneered the concept of prevention/education plays. The Education Program has since reached beyond the main stage to a large national and international audience through performance, workshops, tours, peer education sites, broadcasts, and educational materials.

Students in the  H-Art  Hands -On Arts Program at South High School 

Students in the  H-Art  Hands -On Arts Program at South High School 

 

 

Our Education Program has several components: The Peer Education Project TRUST, a national peer education program of a dozen plays and workshops for youth and adults to explore through theater the challenges they face and surpass in their lives . In 2000 Illusion received the National Endowment for the Arts and  National  Endowment for the Humanities Coming Up Taller Award  for our work with youth.

One of the stars in the Courage Center play created with Illusion Theater. Illusion has partnered with Courage Center for over xxx years.

One of the stars in the Courage Center play created with Illusion Theater. Illusion has partnered with Courage Center for over xxx years.

Illusion Theater in Residence provides students and youth with extended artist residences where Teaching Artists from Illusion  work in classes, after school programs  to generate scenes, characters and plays based on the curriculum of the class, or issues  current to the students in the program . 

The Education Program is renowned throughout the state and country for its effective combination of art and education in addressing issues of vital importance to communities.

Awards

Illusion Theater's work has received many awards and honors:

  • Twin Cities Mayor's Arts Award
  • Minnesota Educators Awards
  • Minnesota Family Council Awards of Excellence
  • 1997 National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Juvenile Justice Award, which named Illusion as one of eight exemplary programs using arts as a way to conduct violence prevention
  • In 1999, Illusion was one of only a handful of U.S. organizations invited to present a workshop on our Peer Education model at the Regional European Conference of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) held in Israel.
  • 1999 Sally Ordway Irvine Award for Vision presented to Michael Robins and Bonnie Morris
  • 1999 Minneapolis Award presented to Michael Robins and Bonnie Morris for their "outstanding accomplishments and contributions to the city of Minneapolis"
  • 2000 Coming Up Taller Award in recognition of our work with youth, sponsored by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Arts
  • 2002 Finalist for the Leadership for a Changing World Award, sponsored by the Advocacy Institute and the Ford Foundation
  • 2006 Ivey Award for the "emotional impact" of its production of Sez She
  • 2007 The National Theater Critics Association chose our production of Autistic License by Stacey Dinner Levin as a finalist for the Best New Play of 2007 award
  • 2009 Ivey Advertising Award for Excellence. Illusion received the first award in this category acknowledging the theater's innovative communication strategies.
  • 2010 Ivey Award presented to Katie Guentzel for her role as Antonia in Illusion's production of My Antonia.
  • 2010 Ivey Award presented to Allison Moore as the author of My Antonia.
  • 2014 Lifetime Achievement Ivey Award presented to Michael Robins and Bonnie Morris inIllusions 40th year
  • 2015 Award for "Outstanding Artistic Achievement in American Theater" presentedby the National Theatre Conference .As part of the Award, Bonnie and Michael were asked to shine light on an emerging artist. Illusion chose to introduce to the national theatre community Isabel Nelson and Diogo Lopes of Transatlantic Love Affair and they were honored with the NTC's Outstanding Emerging Professional Award.
  • 2015 Bonnie Morris and Michael Robins were profiled on the TPT Series Minnesota Originals.
  • embed link to the Mn originals piece XXXXX
  • Bonnie Morris and Michael Robins on the cover of the 2015 Ivey  Awards Playbill