February 11, 2010

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Growing up
Actorsingers win big at the New Hampshire Theatre Awards

By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

In its eighth year, the New Hampshire Theatre Awards demonstrated continued maturity, with a smoothly run awards show at the Palace Theatre in Manchester Feb. 5.

“The feedback that I received from a number of people, including my own personal take, is that this was our best awards show, and best year yet,” NH Theatre Awards executive director Joe Vago said. 

With 41 companies submitting shows for adjudication, and the 800-plus-seat Palace near capacity, most of the audience seemed to end up on stage at some point Feb. 5 — as presenters, accepting awards or performing, often for more than one company.

Community performances often garner the most anticipation and emphatic applause. This year, Actorsingers of Nashua cleaned up, winning eight out of the 20 community awards, including best musical, for Anything Goes. Its cast tap-danced their hearts out with an Anything Goes number Feb. 5. The production also won Manchester costumer Mary Selvoski an award for best costume designer.

M and M Productions’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won best drama/comedy and a supporting actress award for Meredith Borgioli.

Cathy McKay performed from the one-woman show Golda’s Balcony, capturing the audience (no small feat at an event like this) as she portrayed Golda Meir in 1973 as prime minister of Israel. McKay then returned to the stage in her full Golda make-up and costume to accept her community award for best actress in a musical, for her performance in The King and I — both shows were produced by the Manchester Community Players.

Actors’ Circle Theatre of Peterborough took two awards — for best director (Deborah S. Thurber) and best supporting actor, Scott Gardner, for a drama for their production of The Taming of the Shrew.

Dan Richards won best sound design for Judy’s Scary Little Christmas, produced by Music and Drama Company. Tom Morgan won best scenic design for subUrbia, presented by Ghostlight Theatre Co. Lowell Williams of Nashua won for best original playwright for History of the Roses, produced by Garrison Players. Marc Willis won a best supporting actor award for his performance in The Full Monty, produced by Community Players of Concord.

On the professional side, Peterborough Players won five awards for Heartbreak House, including best drama/comedy. Weathervane Theatre took seven for Sweeney Todd.

Neil Pankhurst won best director and sound designer for Around the World in 80 Days for Winnipesaukee Playhouse, and Mathew Guminski won best lighting design for that show.

Closer to home, Casey Preston (who was absent Feb. 5 because he was performing in Cambridge) won a best actor award for Yellow Taxi Productions’ performance of Burn This. Jeannette Angell won best original playwright for her adaptation of The Pact for Yellow Taxi Productions. The professional Nashua company is said to be currently on hiatus.

Clint Klose won the Excellence in Children’s Theatre Award for his work creating the Student Actors Program 20 years ago at Beaver Meadow School in Concord.

And George F. Piehl, who continued his tradition of giving the opening performance at the New Hampshire Theatre Awards show, won the Lifetime Achievement Award — following Earnest Thompson (he wrote On Golden Pond) as last year’s recipient. Palace president and CEO Peter Ramsey called Piehl “a profound mentor and adviser” to actors over the years. Based in Manchester, Piehl has acted professionally for about 35 years. He and his wife Jeannemarie Thorpe co-founded Stage One Productions. Piehl kept his comments concise. “Thank you so very much for making my life so good,” he said.

Band leader Joel Mercier was at the ready to keep things pushing along Feb. 5, and in the quest to keep the awards show from running long (Vago reluctantly admitted that their record was close to four and a half hours; they came in under three and a half Feb. 5, including intermission) only winners who were present could accept awards — company representatives could not this year.

The Palace recuses itself from competing, but sent its cast of Swing Fever, which opens Feb. 12, out to perform a dance number. Advice to the Players, which won the professional general excellence award, performed a Henry V sword fight scene with the Saint Chrispan’s Day speech. Best Foot Forward’s Chicago cast performed the musical’s ventriloquist number.

StageCoach Productions, which won the community general excellence award, performed from The Altar Boyz and the Educational Theatre Collaborative did a Godspell number. Peacock Players’ represented the Old Testament in the second act with a performance from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

While attendees often dress formally, actors Kevin Roberge and Meri Keegan had put a call out asking people to donate what they would have for new duds to Hope For Haiti Now. Roberge said they raised $2,300 through the effort.

The way the awards works is that each company can nominate up to two of its productions — three if one is an original piece (with an intent to encourage original productions in the state, Vago said). Each company then has to provide one volunteer adjudicator per production it nominates. The adjudicators are now trained on how to score and what to look for.

“It’s getting better all the time,” Vago said of the adjudication process. The adjudication Web site where ballots are submitted is working well, and penalties were instituted last year for missed assignments.

For 2010
The New Hampshire Theatre Awards is now an official 501(c)3 nonprofit. Its new board of directors includes David Preece (playwright and executive director of the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission), Keith Weirich (Peacock Players artistic director and Equity actor) and Ramsey. 

The Awards committee includes Ramsey, co-founder Rick Broussard (editor of New Hampshire Magazine), Gina Carballo, Dr. Alan Kaplan, Neil Pankhurst, Kevin Riley, Mo Demers, Suzanne Delle and Scott Katrycz.

Vago said a number of groups have joined for 2010 — he’s particularly excited about summer stock company New London Barn Playhouse.

Also new, the NH Theatre Awards are offering a youth division with five categories for 2010. The Awards will “play it by ear [and] see how that works,” Vago said.

It could be an interesting development. Peacock Players of Nashua are one of the youth companies that competes in the community division. Peacock members cheer loudly during the awards, and are often announced in top three finalists, but frequently end up runners up.


The details
For a list of New Hampshire Theatre Award 8 winners, visit www.nhtheatreawards.com.

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