Michael Sommers

Doris Duke Impact Award, 2014

Minneapolis, MN

For nearly 30 years, Minneapolis-based Michael Sommers has worked as a versatile and inventive theatre maker. He co-founded Open Eye Figure Theatre with partner Susan Haas in 2000. Open Eye remains Sommers’ artistic home where he creates original figure theatre, featuring beautifully designed objects and puppets melded with artful stage pictures and original music. Recent works include Strumply Peter: A Toy Opera (2014), inspired by German 19th Century cautionary children’s poems; The Clumsy Man (2013), based on the life of Hans Christian Anderson; and A-HOLE (2012), an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. From experimental object works to puppet shows in backyards to community pageants to miniature spectacles, Sommers consistently creates a unique, contagious exchange between artists and audiences. His honors include the Bush Enduring Vision Award (2009), a Ford Fellowship (2008), and a McKnight Theatre Fellowship (2004). He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Minnesota. Sommers is currently developing an adaptation of The Juniper Tree (Brothers Grimm) and Alfred & UBU, a new work for the Open Eye.

  • Photo credit: Mark Vancleave
  • Michael Sommers- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2012): http://vimeo.com/89935468
    The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2012)
  • Michael Sommers- Elijah’s Wake (2009): http://vimeo.com/89935467
    Elijah’s Wake (2009)
  • Photo Credit: Larry Lamb
    Dancing with a Contagion (2008)
  • Photo Credit: Michal Daniels
    Homage to Louise Bourgeois (1998-2007)

What fuels your impulse to make creative work?

Throughout my thirty-year history of working professionally as a Theatre Artist in venues ranging from major cultural institutions to small theatres, in backyards and on the street, I have witnessed the profound effect and importance of Art in our daily lives. This experience fuels my commitment to creative action. As a creator, interpreter, and maker of the theatrical event I strive for a synthesis of the animation of ideas with the physical act of building and making.

Drawing from traditional theatrical forms, classical text, populist entertainment, folk art, the Comedy and Tragedy of our daily lives, I create image-driven worlds that incite arcane emotion, defy gravity, and create their own logic in a scale that creates an intimate relationship with the audience.

My work continues to evolve, presenting new possibilities in creative approach and content, and form my impulse to walk, skip, and more often stumble into the mystery of the creative act.