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from left:  Judges Tom Jacobs, Elizabeth Schwyzer, Philip Brandes, Starshine Roshell, Charles Donelan, and Barney Brantingham

Paul Wellman

from left: Judges Tom Jacobs, Elizabeth Schwyzer, Philip Brandes, Starshine Roshell, Charles Donelan, and Barney Brantingham


The Indys

The Independent Celebrates Santa Barbara Theater


The annual Independent Theater Awards filled the Santa Barbara Club on Monday, May 21, with actors, directors, and designers, along with members of their families and even some fans. For the 20th consecutive year, The Independent and a team of six judges distributed two dozen statuettes honoring the best in Santa Barbara theater for the 2011-12 year. Awards were given for acting, directing, playwriting, producing, music direction, original score, choreography, and set design. Mitchell Thomas, a Westmont professor and an Actors’ Equity member, earned the first of several double awards for his performances in Ensemble Theatre Company’s production of Creditors and in Lit Moon/Westmont’s Peer Gynt. Thomas thanked his wife, Sarah, for sacrificing an opportunity of her own to help make this extraordinary year possible for him, thus setting the tone for a night that was all about the tight-knit, family-like collaborative atmosphere of the Santa Barbara theater scene.

Ojai’s Theater 150 was honored in the year that it closed, causing judge and presenter Philip Brandes to both extol director Jessica Kubzansky’s achievements there and to acknowledge the challenges that all small theaters now face. Cheri Steinkellner, who received an award for writing the original musical Hello! My Baby, reflected on a year in which she took a show that she and her husband worked on called Sister Act from the West End in London to New York’s Broadway, where it was nominated for a Tony Award. She also directed a show at Goleta Valley Junior High, demonstrating the unusual range and commitment that’s typical of the many talented people who create theater here. John Douglas, who was honored for his musical direction of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Rubicon Theatre, extended his appreciation for the legions of high school musicians he has led and his colleagues at Dos Pueblos and Santa Barbara high, Clark Sayre and Otto Layman.

The evening’s youngest honoree, Quinlan Fitzgerald, a first-year student at UCSB, seemed genuinely surprised to be there, and thanked her Spring Awakening director, Samantha Eve, for giving her the chance to play Wendla, pointing out that her life was in the same phase as that of her character, although, with any luck, not with the same problems. James Connolly and John Blondell should not have been surprised to be there, but they both nevertheless conveyed a similar freshness in their gratitude for the ongoing adventure of creating theater in Santa Barbara and beyond. Tiffany Story, who was honored for her portrayal of a dog, promised to continue playing what she described as her favorite role until she was “put down.” Merlin Huff’s mother was on hand to accept his award for playing Hamlet. Jenny Sullivan received a double award for plays at Rubicon and Ensemble Theatre Company, an acknowledgement that underscored this prolific director’s central role in our theater community. Brian Harwell also scored a double win for his roles in Genesis West’s A Number and Lit Moon’s Henry VI, Part 3. Veteran set designer Ted Dolas testified to the health and quality of our scene in comparison to theater nationally. Finally, in the last round of awards, Chris Wagstaffe, a Westmont sophomore, was recognized for his performance as Peer Gynt, Mandee Sikich received a statue for her musical direction of Spring Awakening, and two professors from UCSB, Anne Torsiglieri and Irwin Appel, were honored for directing. The evening concluded with the entire cast moving, green statuettes in hand, to Aldo’s on State Street, where they enjoyed one another’s company and basked in the glory of another successful year on the stage.

The Winners

Mitchell Thomas
Performance
Ensemble Theatre Company
Creditors
Lit Moon/Westmont
Peer Gynt

Samantha Eve
Direction
Out of the Box Theatre Company
Spring Awakening

Jenny Sullivan
Direction
Rubicon Theatre Company
Steel Magnolias
Ensemble Theatre Company
The Lion in Winter

James Connolly
Original Score
Lit Moon
Henry VI, Part 3

Misa Kelly
Artistic Direction
SB-Adapt Festival

Maurie Lord
Direction
Genesis West
A Number

Theodore Michael Dolas
Scenic and Lighting Design
Out of the Box Theatre Company
Spring Awakening

John Blondell
Direction
Lit Moon
Henry VI, Part 3
Lit Moon/Westmont
Peer Gynt

Anne Torsiglieri
Direction
Theatre UCSB
Cloud Nine

Jessica Kubzansky
Direction
Theater 150
Breadcrumbs

Cheri Steinkellner
Book
Rubicon Theatre Company
Hello! My Baby

Chris Wagstaffe
Performance
Lit Moon/Westmont
Peer Gynt

Mandee Sikich
Music Direction
Out of the Box Theatre Company
Spring Awakening

Jonathan Fox
Direction
Ensemble Theatre Company
Creditors

Angela Goethals
Performance
Rubicon Theatre Company
Steel Magnolias

Charles Pasternak
Performance
Ensemble Theatre Company
Creditors

Merlin Huff
Performance
Theatre UCSB
Hamlet

John Douglas
Musical Direction
Rubicon Theatre Company
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Brian Harwell
Performance
Genesis West,
A Number
Lit Moon
Henry VI, Part 3

Mark Booher
Direction
PCPA Theaterfest
The 39 Steps

Kyra Lehman
Choreography
Proximity Theatre Company
Shandy Wilkes

Quinlan Fitzgerald
Performance
Out of the Box Theatre Company
Spring Awakening

Irwin Appel
Direction
Theatre UCSB
Hamlet

Tiffany Story
Performance
Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre
Sylvia

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