"This was extraordinary in all ways, we loved it so much. This is my second time seeing it." - Attendee after Iphigenia at Aulis
"I have to tell you that this is everything, that what you're doing is so meaningful." – Attendee after Thunder Knocking
"I haven’t felt Shakespeare in that way for so so long… So proud to live in a community where artistry like this exists and is shared with such generosity." – Attendee after Winter's Tale
"You make me feel like at least someone in the community considers me worthy of experiencing joy in my life. Not to mention that it makes me feel a part of that community—which is something that many of us have never really experienced." Male inmate after The Good Person of Szechwan
Ten Thousand Things awakens the creative spirit of audiences and artists by bringing essential and exceptional theater to people from all backgrounds and life experiences.
When our talented artists perform in homeless shelters, prisons, low-income housing and community centers, the skills and imaginations of our veteran artists confront the honesty and insight of men and women who have lived hard lives. Through this dynamic exchange, artists and audience breathe new life into theater together reminding us that theater is essential to all of our lives.
At our performances, audiences experience theater in its most vital, elemental form; there are no bells and whistles to distract. It is, as one audience member proclaimed, like mainlining theater. The success of our work hinges on the use of only the finest artists in the Twin Cities, so that we may bring our audiences the truth and depth they deserve.
Compensating these actors for their time and talent is important, and we were proud to be identified by the Star Tribune as “the highest paying small theater” in the Twin Cities.
Because of the extraordinary caliber of talent we use – and, more importantly, because of the honesty, depth, liveliness and urgency our audiences demand of us! -- we regularly receive critical acclaim. In 2019, Marcela Lorca received the Zelda Fichandler Award. In 2018, Michelle Hensley received the TCG Visionary Leadership Award. Michelle Hensley was awarded an Ivey Award for Lifetime Achievement, and Steven Epp won an Ivey Award for our production of Fiddler on the Roof both in 2017. We were also awarded the Rosetta LeNoire Award in 2017 by Actors Equity. Resident costume designer, Trevor Bowen, won an Ivey Award for Emerging Artist in 2016. Our production of Romeo and Juliet won an Ivey Award in 2015. MPR featured us as an "Art Hero" in 2012. Star Tribune named Michelle Hensley Best Theater Artistic Director in 2012. We won an Ivey in 2011 for Doubt and in 2010 for Othello. In 2010 we were also awarded the Sally Ordway Vision Award and City Pages named us Best Small Theater and named Michelle Hensley Best Director and Artist of the Year. For many years, Star Tribune has chosen a TTT show for its annual lists of Outstanding Theater Productions: The Sins of Sor Juana (2019); The Good Person of Szechwan (2018); Electra (2017); Fiddler on the Roof (2017); Henry IV Part I (2015); Music Man (2014); Measure for Measure (2012); Man of La Mancha (2011); Doubt (2011); Once On This Island (2008); Richard III (2007); Merchant of Venice (2006), Iphigenia and Ragtime (2005) and Cyrano (2004). The Pioneer Press regularly places our shows on its annual Top 10 Theater Production lists, as well, including: Man of La Mancha (2011); My Fair Lady (2010); Raskol (2009); Once on This Island and Twelfth Night (2008) Little Shop of Horrors (2007): In a Garden (2006); Antigone (2005); and Cyrano (2004).
There is no other professional theater in the Twin Cities that tours directly to low-income audiences. We know that our presence is influential in the wider Twin Cities theater community, and beyond, as St. Paul Pioneer Press critic Dominic Papatola has highlighted: "Ten Thousand Things has truly changed the landscape of the theater community." And Graydon Royce of the Star Tribune wrote, "Don't even get me started on what Michelle Hensley. . . [has] done for the life of this theater community." We expect our unique model will continue to challenge the wider theater community's mind about what is necessary to create great theater.
We are proud of the extraordinary diversity of our theater audiences. Due of the eclectic nature of our urban touring, our demographics have always remained fairly constant: about 70% are low-income, and around 40% African-American, with about 2% in each group of Native American, Hmong, Somalian and Latino -- as well as about 30% who are enthusiastic “traditional theater-goers,” attending because love the quality and immediacy of our work. Surveys of low-income audience members indicate that about 65% had never seen a theater performance before ours.