The 2011 Indy Theater Awards
“Master Harold” and Nils Lead the Pack at 19th Annual Indies
Thursday, June 9, 2011
PHOTOS BY PAUL WELLMAN
Actors and theater people invaded the Santa Barbara Club on Monday, June 6, for the 19th annual Indy Theater Awards. The evening got started with a song from Ensemble Theatre Company’s current production of The Fantasticks, which found singers Matt Wolpe and Jeff Griggs alternately wailing and crooning to a group of winners every bit as fantastic as the actors onstage.
Created to honor the best achievements in area theater, the Indys are a night for socializing, celebrating, and definitely for speechifying. Actor Ed Lee, who was honored for his performance in the Santa Barbara City College Theatre Group’s Time of My Life, got things rolling with an acceptance speech that included a great story about (nearly) getting fitted for an expensive set of prosthetic teeth. From there, the honorees were off and running, with a series of 20 of the best impromptu monologues you’ll hear anywhere. It made for more fun than a barrel of Golden Globes.
Rubicon Theatre’s production of Athol Fugard’s “Master Harold” … and the Boys was 2011’s big winner, followed closely by Lit Moon Theatre’s The Wonderful Adventures of Nils. Anthony J. Haney, who played Sam in “Master Harold,” was awkward at first, then eloquent as he shared the extraordinary experience of taking on this challenging role. “Master Harold” director Brian McDonald and the brilliant (and young!) 17-year-old actor who played Hally, Daniel Stewart, were also on hand to accept their prizes. McDonald did a particularly funny job of translating an email message from Chris Erric Maddox, the third actor in the show, who was also honored but unable to attend.
The judges got in on the funny act, too, as Roger Durling cracked everyone up with his rough-edged impression of the smooth-talking Ed Giron, who won for his portrayal of Richard Nixon in the DIJO production of Frost/Nixon. The other judges this year were Barney Brantingham, Philip Brandes, Starshine Roshell, Tom Jacobs, Elizabeth Schwyzer, and myself.
There were serious moments, as well, many of them reflecting on the central role that theater plays in a healthy culture. Susan Keller, producer of The Christmas Revels, spoke movingly of her own awakening to theater and the pleasure she now takes in bringing the experience to people who have never had it before. Accepting the award for set design bestowed on Marjatta Kuivasto for her work on The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, Victoria Finlayson brought attention to the hard work and imagination supplied by the theater people working behind the scenes. Mark Booher, accepting on behalf of Michael Jenkinson for his direction and choreography of West Side Story at PCPA, encouraged those present to make the trip over the San Marcos Pass and enjoy what his excellent program has to offer. And, in the last slot of the night, Simon Williams, chair of the theater department at UCSB, made a brilliant job of thanking all the many students and others who played in and worked on his production of She Stoops to Conquer, concluding with a heartfelt tribute to that great figure of the British Enlightenment, playwright Oliver Goldsmith.
Youth was well represented, not only by Stewart but also by two recent graduates of UCSB’s BFA program, Amanda Berning and Christine Corpuz, both of whom were honored for their acting in recent professional productions. Megan Connors, the star of SBCC’s Machinal, was also on hand to accept her award. And, in the night’s most unexpected twist, John Blondell’s son Nicholas brought the house down with his perceptive quips as he took his in-transit father’s place to receive the trophy for directing The Wonderful Adventures of Nils.