As if to outdo the previous 13 seasons of Independent Theater Awards, this year’s event did, in fact, include everything and the kitchen sink. That’s because presenters handed out this year’s iconic black “i” statuettes at Center Stage Theater on the set of the current Santa Barbara Theatre production Miss Julie, all of which unfolds in a kitchen. The location didn’t mean that the Indys had departed from its characteristic aversion to the edge-of-the-seat tension that plagues so many award shows. By eschewing categories and nominees and cutting straight to the good stuff, the Indys have set a 14-year precedent of honoring the best theater in the region with minimal pitting of actors, directors, and technical people against one another. Many in attendance already suspected that they would be leaving the theater having had a chance to publicly thank those who made their theatrical achievements possible. The result: a congenial affair that felt more like a reunion of old friends than a cutthroat competition.
Ventura’s Rubicon Theatre Company took home the most accolades, including four for its production of Hamlet. James O’Neil, Alison Brie, and Joseph Fuqua received honors for their performances, while Jenny Sullivan got a nod for her direction of the play. Sullivan admitted to being utterly terrified of the undertaking at the start, but ended up feeling that the production marked “the greatest experience of my life.” Fuqua too noted his satisfaction with having done a good job as the lead in what is considered literature’s greatest play. “This playwright after 400 years is still a force in the world,” O’Neil noted.
Those taking the stage made their thank-yous relatively quickly, making for a quick-moving show that hastened everyone’s exit to the patio outside Center Stage, where they congratulated one another with hugs and high-fives. Christina Allison-who received an award for her performance in Theatrical Treats’ production of The White Liars-almost stole the show with an impromptu version of “Always Look for the Union Label,” which her cheering audience recognized as a reference to the unionization vote at the Santa Barbara News-Press. And Jonathan Hicks, a young Westmont grad whose lighting design for the college’s production of The Clouds won him an award, stole hearts by tearing up while thanking his wife and son for their support during his debut in this aspect of theater.
Young and old alike were honored, with stage veteran Robert Grande-Weiss taking home the first-ever Indy Lifetime Achievement award, and newcomers such as Macy Wesier and Darcy Scanlin receiving honors for their work on A Day in the Life of Crazy and The Clouds, respectively. Scanlin’s “i” statuette lost its dot shortly after it was handed to her, giving her the unique honor of being the only person to receive an uppercase letter for her efforts. Accompanied by David Potter on piano, former Tony nominee Brian Alan Greene was on hand at the midway point to sing, appropriately, “Grateful” from his upcoming show with Rubicon.
“The fridge is empty. You’ll have to wait until the show is over for food,” joked Philip Brandes, a Los Angeles Times theater critic and the only member of the inaugural Indy Award panel of judges still choosing the highlights of Santa Barbara’s dramatic arts offerings. The set may have been artificial, but anyone in Center Stage Theater that night knew that the emotions-the gratitude, the glee, and the earnest love for theater-were very real.
And the awards go to:
Leslie Gangl Howe, performance, “The Goat” (Genesis West) and “The Man Who Came to Dinner” (SBCC Theatre Group)
Christina Allison, performance, “The White Liars” (Theatrical Treats)
Stan Hoffman, performance, “The Tempest” (Lit Moon Theatre Company)
Alison Brie, performance, “Hamlet” (Rubicon Theatre)
Robert Grande-Weiss, Lifetime Achievement, (Ensemble Theatre)
Tal Sanders, scenic design, “The Dinosaur Within” (Theatre UCSB)
Patricia Troxel, direction, “The Chalk Circle,” (PCPA Theaterfest)
Conor Lovett, performance, “The Good Thief” (Rubicon Theatre Company)
Irwin Appel, performance, “Timon of Athens” (Theatre UCSB)
Darcy Scanlin, scenic and costume design, “The Clouds” (Westmont College)
Edward Lee, performance, “The Foreigner” (SBCC Theatre Group)
Armando Molina, direction, “Anna in the Tropics” (PCPA Theaterfest)
James Brodhead, performance, “The Man Who Came to Dinner” (SBCC Theatre Group)
Macy Weiser, original play, “A Day in the Life of Crazy” (We Wear Pants Productions)
Joseph Fuqua, performance, “Hamlet” (Rubicon Theatre)
Bruce Weitz, performance, “The Diary of Anne Frank” (Rubicon Theatre Company)
Jonathan Hicks, lighting design, “The Clouds” (Westmont College)
Risa Brainin, direction, “The Dinosaur Within” and “Timon of Athens” (Theatre UCSB)
Frederick P. Deeben, costume design, “The Chalk Circle,” (PCPA Theaterfest)
Jim Connolly, original score, “The Tempest” (Lit Moon Theatre Company)
Jenny Sullivan, direction, “Hamlet” (Rubicon Theatre)
John Walsh, original playscript, “The Dinosaur Within” (Theatre UCSB)
Mary Gibson, costume design, “Seascape” (SBCC Theatre Group)
Sara Martinovich, direction, “The Shape of Things” (A Loose Affiliation of Artists)
Paul Tigue, performance, “The Violet Hour” (Ensemble Theatre Company)
James O’Neil, direction, “The Diary of Anne Frank” (Rubicon Theatre Company); performance, “Hamlet” (Rubicon Theatre Company)