Horizon’s Avenue Q and Alliance Theatre are Big Winners of Atlanta’s 2011 Suzi Awards

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Suzi Awards for professional theatre celebrated 22 companies, hundreds of professional artists, theatre volunteers, and the Center for Puppetry Arts at a gala event Monday evening at the Conant Center on Oglethorpe University’s campus. With over four hundred in attendance, the evening began as each of the casts nominated for Ensemble-Musical performed a medley of numbers from their shows. After the performances, all the casts came back on stage to await the announcement of their category’s winner, reflecting Melissa McCarthy and friends at the Emmy Awards. The cast of See What I Wanna See at Actor’s Express (Kylie Brown, Ingrid Cole, Dustin Lewis, Stuart Schleuse and Craig Waldrip) took home the Suzi and the congratulations of the thirty nominees on stage with them.

Rob Cleveland, the Master of Ceremonies, spoke to the theme of “familly” in Atlanta’s theatre community, both literal and figurative. The presenters for the evening were some of Atlanta’s theatre couples, such as Shannon Eubanks & James Donadio, Anthony Rodriguez & Ann-Carol Pence, and Bethany Anne Lind & Eric Mendenhall. Cleveland presented the first category with wife Mary Lynn Owen, who returned to the stage later to accept her Featured Actress – Play Suzi for her work in The Little Foxes at Theatre in the Square. Later in the evening, citing the serious financial difficulties of theatre companies in Atlanta over the past year, Cleveland attributed their survival to the grassroots work of the theatre community as much as to the corporations and philanthropists who stepped in with life-saving donations. As he put it, “We all know that family don’t let family go without a fight!”

The family theme continued as the multiply-nominated design team of twins Isabel A. and Moriah Curley-Clay took home two Suzis: Costume Design – Musical for their luscious The Mikado at Atlanta Lyric Theatre, and Scenic Design – Musical for their gritty street scape in Avenue Q at Horizon Theater. Horizon’s Theatre stand-out production of the puppet-infused musical took home the most Suzi stars, winning in seven (7) categories which also included Musical Production, Director – Musical (Heidi Cline McKerley), Music Direction (S. Renee Clark), Lead Actor – Musical (Nick Arapoglou), Featured Actress, Musical (Leslie W. Bellair), and Lighting Design – Musical (Mary Parker). Avenue Q sold out its original run, and Horizon will be returning the production to their stage in 2012.

The new Bring It On: The Musical, now beginning a national tour, won for the Alliance and its creators (Lin-Manuel Miranda,Tom Kitt, Amanda Green & Jeff Whitty) in the World Premiere category. Andy Blankenbuehler took home the Choreography Suzi for his wildly inventive mash-up of dance and cheerleading acrobatics, and Brian Ronan impressed Suzi judges with his full-on sound design for the show. Other notable wins: Eric J. Little, who received the Actors’ Equity-sponsored Suzi for Lead Actor – Play for his cocky, confident young writer in Superior Donuts at Horizon Theatre; Christopher Corporandy (Featured Actor – Play) for The Judas Kiss at Actor’s Express; and Adrienne Reynolds (Lead Actress – Musical) for Gut Bucket Blues at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre.

The Alliance Theatre’s production of August: Osage County dominated the wins in Play categories, much to the delight of the audience and the all-Atlanta company of the show. In her acceptance speeches for the Production – Play and the Director – Play categories, director Susan V. Booth complimented the breadth of talent and the close relationships among the cast as one of the strongest factors in the production’s success. August:Osage County also garnered Suzis for Lead Actress – Play (Tess Malis Kincaid) and Scenic Design – Play (Leslie Taylor). [A full list of winners follows below.]

The Suzi Awards celebrated the valuable volunteers contributing to Atlanta’s primarily non-profit companies with the Volunteer of the Year Award. Participating theatres nominate and Suzi Members choose the recipient of a commemorative clock each year, which this year was Jessica Linden. The Actor’s Express Board Member and arts philanthropist thanked the Suzi audience for the recognition with a gleeful expression of love for Atlanta theatre, proving the statement in her Actor’s Express nomination that “she is one of the great cheerleaders for our theatre, as well as for the entire theatre community of Atlanta.”

The 2011 Spirit of Suzi Bass Award went to the world-famous Center for Puppetry Arts, for its dedication to keeping the art of puppetry alive and sharing that art with professionals and the public. In addition to hiring many Atlanta performers and puppeteers, the Center introduces tens of thousands of children to puppetry and performance each year. Producer (and previous Suzi winner) Liz Lee accepted on behalf of the Center, and read a statement from Center artist Jon Ludwig remembering Suzi Bass.

The gala evening also included recognition of local Atlanta playwrights through the Gene-Gabriel Moore Playwriting Award. The 2010 – 2011 season contained professional productions of no less than seven (7) works by writers who call Atlanta home. But the special committee reading the scripts chose Margaret Baldwin’s Night Blooms, produced last year by Horizon Theatre as the winner. Baldwin lives in Atlanta, is on faculty at Kennesaw State University, and drew on her family’s own experiences to craft an intimate look at the effect of the Civil Rights movement on families and individuals around the time of the march on Selma, Alabama.

After the excitement of announcing the winners and enjoying performances from Nominated musicals, the crowd moved outside to the Conant veranda to enjoy a sumptuous array of hors d’oevres from Wild Oats Catering and to continue the celebration with personal congratulations to all the Nominees and winners.

For more information or to become a member of the Suzi Awards, please visit www.suziawards.org

Production Play

August: Osage County

Director – Play

Susan V. Booth – August: Osage County

Lead Actress – Play

Tess Malis Kincaid – August: Osage County

Lead Actor – Play (sponsored by Actors’ Equity Association)

Eric J. Little – Superior Donuts

Featured Actress – Play

Mary Lynn Owen – The Little Foxes

Featured Actor – Play

Christopher Corporandy – The Judas Kiss

Ensemble – Play

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Brik Berkes, Kelly Criss, James Donadio, Suehyla El-Attar,
Shannon Eubanks, Matt Felten, Scott Warren

Costume Design – Play

Linda Patterson – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Scenic Design – Play

Leslie Taylor – August: Osage County

Lighting Design – Play

Mike Post – The Odyssey: A Journey Home

Sound Design – Play

Thom Jenkins – Stealing Dixie

Production – Musical

Avenue Q

Director – Musical

Heidi Cline McKerley – Avenue Q

Lead Actress – Musical

Adrienne Reynolds – Gut Bucket Blues

Lead Actor – Musical

Nick Arapoglou – Avenue Q

Featured Actress – Musical

Leslie W. Bellair – Avenue Q

Featured Actor – Musical

Jeremy Wood – Singin’ in the Rain

Ensemble – Musical

See What I Wanna See
Kylie Brown, Ingrid Cole, Dustin Lewis, Stuart Schleuse, Craig Waldrip,

Costume Design – Musical

Isabel A. Curley-Clay and Moriah Curley-Clay – The Mikado

Scenic Design – Musical

Isabel A. Curley-Clay and Moriah Curley-Clay – Avenue Q

Lighting Design – Musical

Mary Parker – Avenue Q

Sound Design – Musical

Brian Ronan – Bring It On: The Musical

Music Direction

S. Renee Clark – Avenue Q

Choreography

Andy Blankenbuehler – Bring It On: The Musical

World Premiere

Bring It On: The Musical

TOTALS BY THEATRE

  • Horizon Theatre – 8
  • Alliance Theatre – 7
  • Aurora Theatre – 3
  • Actor’s Express – 2
  • Theatre in the Square – 2
  • Atlanta Lyric Theatre – 1
  • Georgia Shakespeare – 1
  • Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre – 1

SPECIAL AWARDS:

The Spirit of Suzi Awards = Center for Puppetry Arts

The Gene-Gabriel Moore Playwriting Award = Margaret Baldwin for Night Blooms

The Audience Choice Award for Outstanding Season = Horizon Theatre

The Volunteer of the Year Award = Jessica Linden, nominated by Actor’s Express