Theatre Puget Sound honors artistic achievement
 

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posted Friday, October 30, 2009 - Volume 37 Issue 44

Theatre Puget Sound honors artistic achievement
by Miryam Gordon - SGN Contributing Writer

First Annual
Gregory Awards
October 19
Intiman Theatre


Theater Puget Sound sponsored a gala event Monday, October 19, at Intiman Theatre. This year, in addition to the annual Gregory A. Falls Sustained Achievement Award, given to one individual of note in the theater community, TPS added six more awards: Outstanding Actor, Outstanding Actress, Outstanding Director, Outstanding Production, Theater of the Year and Person to Watch. Some 350 actors, directors, designers, and theater support crew gathered together for food, entertainment, awards and a good party. Music was provided by The Love Markets, with singers Angie Louise and Nick Garrison, Dave Marriott on trombone, Rob Witmer on accordion, Dave Pascal on bass and Chris Monroe on drums.

Controversy swirled around the creation of these awards, with many discussions about how people get nominated and voted for, and who are the correct people to nominate, and who should vote. But TPS believed it was appropriate to go ahead and get started this year, rather than discuss the matter to death. Virtually every other city in the U.S. with a major theater population has an award process, including Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. Seattle has, until now, avoided this effort of picking "bests" and creating competition, since that's not the "Seattle way." However, there is much to be said for creating a ceremony to acknowledge and celebrate theater in Seattle, and there is no perfect way to go about doing that.

Even so, excellence was rewarded Monday. Charles Leggett won the Outstanding Actor award primarily for his work at Shylock in Merchant of Venice and the husband in Steven Dietz' new play, Becky's New Car. He was nominated with Hans Altwies, MJ Sieber and Paul Morgan Stetler. Along with each category, there was a write-in section for "Members' Voice" nominees, and Brandon Ryan was chosen as actor.

For Outstanding Actress, Amy Thone won for her work in The Adding Machine, and was nominated with Kimberly King, Hana Lass, and Billie Wildrick, with Terri Weagant as the Members' Voice vote. Outstanding Director went to John Langs for his direction of The Adding Machine, with nominations to Kurt Beattie, Julie Beckman and Allison Narver, and Sheila Daniels as the Members' Voice nominee. The Outstanding Production was presented for The Adding Machine, with The Elephant Man, Eurydice, and The Seafarers nominated, and The History Boys as the Members' Voice choice.

New Century Theater Company, a new company that has had only two productions so far (The Adding Machine and Orange Flower Water), swept the evening with a win in the Theater of the Year award. Co-founder Paul Morgan Stetler acknowledged that perhaps it was premature to award NCTC with this award, but that they would take it as a sign to continue to work hard to develop their company. The other theaters nominated included ACT, Intiman, Strawberry Theatre Workshop and Village Theatre.

A unique award, Person to Watch, was to be awarded to someone whose work was making an impact or who has shown unique promise for the future. This nominee could be from any aspect of theater, including writers, designers, and also actors or directors. All-around acting/music-playing/composing talent Don Darryl Rivera was honored for his many performances in the last year, including two with Strawberry Theatre Workshop, several with Seattle Children's Theatre, and one with small company Contemporary Classics. He was nominated with playwright Vincent Delany, set designer Etta Lilienthal, and sound designer Robertson Witmer (yes, the accordion player). The Members' Voice recipient was composer Scott Warrender.

The major award of the evening, the Sustained Achievement Award, was given to Chris Bennion, photographer extraordinaire, who has been taking production photos of almost any play of note for the last 40 years! He was lauded by speeches and had his work displayed in the Intiman hall, and was honored for his efforts to catalogue the breadth of Seattle theater. His pictures are all that is left of many years of production history.

All in all, it was a lovely evening and an opportunity to bring the theater community together and celebrate each other. TPS will be working on improving the awards process for the coming year, and it's likely that more awards will be developed to acknowledge contributions of designers, writers, and even to balance theater size and "fringe" status.

There are many reasons to develop awards like this, a main one being to bring attention to the theater community as a whole and give them something to toot their horns about to the general public. Comments and suggestions are being welcomed by the TPS staff and the awards volunteers. We look to next year to see the further development of acknowledging excellence in our town.



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