Michael J Sommers

Photo of Michael J Sommers

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Theatre Arts and Dance
572 Rarig Center
330 21st Avenue South

Throughout my thirty-year history of working professionally as a Theatre Artist in venues ranging from major cultural institutions to backyards and 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 physical act of making, the animation of ideas, the embrace of process through collaborative genesis and intuitive response while applying a deep understanding of tradition, theory and practice to make work with the primary responsibility of audience engagement. Drawing from traditional theatrical forms, classical text, populist entertainment, folk art and the Comedy and Tragedy of our daily lives I create original work that speaks in a contemporary voice directly to the audience.“ Trained as a visual artist, Michael Sommers has practiced the Theatre Arts as a designer, director, composer, performer, playwright and technician, both locally and nationally for thirty years. In 2000 he co-founded, with his partner Susan Haas, Open Eye Figure Theatre, whose original work has been presented at the Walker Art Center (Mpls.), in New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Winnipeg, Canada, Mexico and in their intimate performance venue in South Minneapolis. He is an associate professor at the University of Minnesota and is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including two Bush Fellowships (1991,1998), The McKnight Theatre Fellowship, a 2008 Ford Fellowship, the 2009 Bush Enduring Vision Award and the Doris Duke Impact Award 2010.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • BFA and Creative Research: Visual Arts and Theatre Arts.


  • Image Based Theatre
  • Puppetry
Research & Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Artist:
  • Theatre Maker:
  • Drummer:


  • Open Eye Figure Theatre: An intimate performance venue located in South Minneapolis


  • The Prince of Failure: Paintings, bronze casting, wood carving and woodcuts for relief printing,
  • GLUM the Comic Book: Sommers, Michael, Written and illustrated by Michael Sommers, Self-published ash can., Author.
  • Enduring Vision Award, 2009; the Bush Foundation
  • Bush Fellowships 1991,1998
  • Ford Fellowship 2009
  • Doris Duke Impact Award 2010