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    Posted May 21, 2009

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AEA Actors, Theatres Celebrated at 27th Annual Elliot Norton Awards

Kate Burton Wins Outstanding Actress Award for Huntington's THE CORN IS GREEN

By David Lotz, National Communications Director

Boston's 27th Annual Elliot Norton Awards were held on Monday, May 11 at Harvard University's historic Sanders Theatre, focusing the spotlight on the artistic achievements of more than 20 Boston AEA theatres and local Equity members. For the third year in a row, AEA was a co-sponsor of the event as part of the Union's ongoing centennial branding/marketing campaign.

The evening began with a special posthumous award to Paul Benedict, the actor best known as Harry Bentley on THE JEFFERSONS, who had "indelible presence" on the national stage and local theatre scene. Benedict's long time friend and collaborator, Al Pacino, told jokes and reminisced about their early careers at the Theatre Company of Boston under the helm of Director David Wheeler. "When I first met Paul, he had this way of looking at me with wisdom, kindness and a sense of the future," reminisced Pacino. "I am honored to be here to accept this award for my friend Paul." Both actors joined AEA in early 60s and worked together at the beginning of their careers.

Councillor Kate Burton and Area Liaison Chair Michael Dell'Orto

As part of AEA's ongoing sponsorship, Boston Area Liaison Michael Dell'Orto recognized the 18 years of dedicated service to the Boston theatre community of outgoing Liaison Jim Bodge, and presented the Outstanding Actress Award to AEA Councillor Kate Burton for the Huntington Theatre Company's production of THE CORN IS GREEN. Receiving her Norton, Ms. Burton thanked former Williamstown Theatre Festival Artistic Directors Michael Ritchie and Roger Rees, and former HTC Artistic Director Nicholas Martin for casting/directing her in HEDDA GABLER, THE CHERRY ORCHARD and THE CORN IS GREEN respectively. She was also said she was "extremely proud" to appear with her son Morgan for the first time in THE CORN IS GREEN and thanked HTC's Peter DuBois and Michael Maso.

In the acting categories, AEA member Elizabeth Aspenlieder garnered an Outstanding Solo Performance Award for BAD DATES, presented by Merrimack Rep and Shakespeare & Co. Outstanding acting awards went to Will Lyman (EXITS and ENTRANCES/New Rep and THE OIL THIEF/Boston Playwrights' Theatre) and Fred Sullivan Jr. (AS YOU LIKE IT, BLITHE SPIRIT). The Outstanding Ensemble Award went to SpeakEasy's THE SEAFARER, featuring Larry Coen, Bob Colonna, Ciaran Crawford, Billy Meleady, and Derry Woodhouse.

In the small/mid-size theatre category, SpeakEasy Stage Company took home four Norton Awards, including Outstanding Ensemble for aforementioned SEAFARER, Outstanding Actress for Marianna Bassham in BLACKBIRD; Outstanding Director (Scott Edmiston, for THE HISTORY BOYS); and Outstanding Design (Janie E. Howland).

Other theatre/production honors went to Lyric Stage for SPEECH AND DEBATE; Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre for AWAKE AND SING; and North Shore Music Theatre for SHOWBOAT.

Rick Lombardo, the outgoing Artistic Director of New Repertory Theatre, received a special Elliot Norton Award for Sustained Excellence and "taking New Rep to a new level of artistic distinction." Noting that New Rep artists garnered awards from 1996 until 2008, before he left to become Artistic Director of San Jose Rep, Lombardo spoke about the tough economic climate and declining arts coverage by the media, and the need to hold on "our dream." The 2009 StageSource Hero Award went to emcee Joyce Kulhawik, former arts and entertainment reporter for WBZ-TV for her work championing the theatre.

From L-R: Back row: Melissa Ann Colgan (Business Rep), Lawrence Lorczak (Senior Business Rep), Emily McMullen, Dawn Schall, Bill Mootos
From L-R: Middle row: John Kooi, Ellen Colton, Celeste McClain, Peter Haydu, James Bodge
Kneeling: Michael Dell'Orto (Boston Liaison Chair), David Lotz
Photo: Leo Gozbekian

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