The 2019 Independent Dance and Theater Awards took place at Ensemble Theatre Company’s New Vic on Monday, May 20. It was the first time that the event, also known as the Indys, has taken place in that wonderful venue and that the Santa Barbara Independent has combined its annual Dance and Theater Awards into a single ceremony. From high school musical singers to composers, designers, and directors, and from dramatic actors to choreographers and dancers, this was a night for recognizing the wide range of great things happening throughout the year on area stages. A woman, Tadja Enos, won for playing Hamlet, and a man, Alex Jaeger, won for dressing the male cast members of The Legend of Georgia McBride in drag. Classics such as Pride and Prejudice, The Magic Flute, and Death of a Salesman were honored; so were recent original works such as Heisenberg and “A” Train.

Photo: Paul Wellman2019 Indy Awards Judges: (from left) Anna Jensen, Michelle Drown, Ninette Paloma, Terry Ortega, Charles Donelan, Kathee Miller, and Susan Alexander

Most importantly, more than two dozen people gave gracious, charming, wonderful acceptance speeches full of gratitude and joy. From Christian Duarte, the recipient of the first statuette, to Anne Torsiglieri, who picked up the last yellow prize, the tone was consistently jubilant, even on those rare occasions when it got serious. William Blondell was particularly funny accepting on behalf of his father, John, for his direction of The Magic Flute. Somehow he managed to work the text of President Trump’s recent remarks in praise of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán into his description of his dad, who was directing in Kazakhstan the night of the awards. That will teach him to miss the Indys! 

At intervals, three high school performers sang songs from their recent musicals, and when Emerging Artist winner Dallin McComb performed a rousing dance at the midway point of the evening, the actors in the house joined his fellow dancers in shouting their approval. Thanks to Jonathan Fox, who gave a very funny speech on behalf of two ETC winners who could not attend, for hosting this Santa Barbara institution in what was its most inclusive incarnation yet.