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    Posted October 22, 2009

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Barrymore Awards

Barrymore Awards Honor Philly's "Finest" Equity Actors, Theatres Are Feted at 15th Annual Gala

Connolly Presents Lifetime Achievement Award to Theatre Legend Dugald MacArthur

The Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia (TGAP) presented the 15th Annual Barrymore Awards on October 5, 2009 at the historic Walnut Street Theatre, celebrating the continued excellence, richness and diversity of the greater Philadelphia theatrical community. More than 50 local Equity actors and theatres were nominated for the theatrical honor, named for the Philadelphia-based "first family" of the American theatre: John, Ethel and Lionel Barrymore. Indeed, the city's rich theatrical history was one of the evening's themes, tracing back to the Pine Street Theatre in 1754, and the founding of the Walnut Street Theatre in 1858.

Actor's Equity had a "starring role" at the gala, from the VIP Red Carpet on Walnut Street, to the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award, to the numerous Equity actors and theatres whose work was highlighted throughout the evening.

Phila Liaison Committee members Julie Czarnecki, Jeanette Hartunian, Tom Helmer, Pat Adams, E.D. John P. Connolly, Pat Sabato

AEA Member Tom McCarthy hosted the AEA "Red Carpet," greeting the arriving nominees, stars and VIPs. Equity's contingent included Executive Director John P. Connolly; members of the Philadelphia Liaison Committee - Tom Helmer, Julie Czarnecki, Jeannette Hartunian, Pat Sabato - and AEA staffers David Lotz, Dragica Dabo, Gary Dimon and newly-appointed Director of Public Policy Rachel LaForest. Opening remarks were made by Gary Steuer, Philadelphia's Chief Cultural Officer, who welcomed everyone and reiterated the city's commitment to the arts for financial as well as cultural and social reasons. "With over 1.1 million tickets sold, theatre is a prime and vital economic resource," he emphasized. Referring to the proposed PA Cultural tax, he reminded the audience that "you already who to call."

TGAP Executive Director Margie Salvante mirrored another of the evening's themes, the prolific amount of new work that is being developed on Philly stages. "Philadelphia's reputation as a vibrant birthplace of new plays is continuing to grow, which speaks to the sophistication of both our theatre companies and audiences." That abundance prompted one presenter to say "Move over Chicago, here comes Philadelphia," drawing cheers and applause from the audience.

The centerpiece of the evening was the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given in recognition of individual's "distinguished career as an artist or patron who devoted time, talent and energy to making a significant impact on the artistic landscape of the city." Theatre legend Dugald MacArthur, who arrived at Temple University's Graduate Theatre Department in 1973 and built a program with an international reputation that mentored three generations and hundreds of theatre artists, accepted the award from AEA Executive Director John P. Connolly.

Red Carpet Host Tom McCarthy, Lifetime Achievement Honoree Dugald MacArthur, E.D. John P. Connolly

Connolly remarked: "Dugald is a unique and extraordinary Man of the Theatre: quirky, insightful, passionate, creative, toweringly creative, a fine teacher and a visionary director. His contribution to the Philadelphia Theater is seminal, and the echoes and ripples of his genius have cycled out across the land to inform many a stage and troupe. He's kind of the unspoken Grand Daddy of Theater Art in Philly. The profound effect he had on my generation of Manning Street Actors' Theater, Theater of the Living Arts, Freedom Theater and People's Light & Theater crews, nurtured the seed of bold artistry and innovation that is the hallmark of Philadelphia's Theatrical Renaissance today."

On a personal note, Connolly added that "the work that Dugald did with me -- from plucking me out of the crowd of talented, energetic, physical, forceful, fun (and completely undisciplined) rogues running amok throughout the anarchic Philly Theater World of the early 1970s; to his patient wooing of me to lure me into the Temple MFA program in 1976; to his challenging class work; his vast experience with the most daring experimenters of the day; to his riveting productions of classic, contemporary and original plays and collaborations; to his rare ability to translate his own worn-on-the-sleeve obsessions and neuroses into artistic insight; to his sheer and volcanic delight in the theatrical act -- fundamentally transformed me from a callow and fallow youth into a sharp and serious practitioner of the comedic and dramatic arts."

Dugald, who regularly lectures on theatre at several major universities, including Penn, Dartmouth, Harvard, Brown and Princeton, graciously accepted his award and said he has no plans to retire, "although I'm 175 years old!" "Certainly I don't work at the same pace I used to, but I don't think about it. I just keep doing the work and enjoy it."

CINDERELLA: A MUSICAL PANTO, People's Light & Theatre Co, Outstanding Musical Ensemble: (Clockwise from left) Jeffrey Coon, Christopher Patrick Mullen, Kimberly Rehfuss, Erin Weaver, Susan McKey, Kim Carson, Mark Lazar, Tom Teti, Andrew Kane, Elena Bossler, Chris Faith, and Maggie Fitzgerald
Photo by Mark Garvin
click to enlarge

Two new works, "Cinderella" at The People's Light & Theatre Company, and "Something Intangible," at the Arden Theatre Company, garnered "Best Production" kudos, and tied for the most nominations, 13 each. "Something Intangible" landed seven awards, including outstanding new play for the prolific Philadelphia playwright, Bruce Graham, and a "Leading Actor In A Play" for Ian Merrill Peakes.

Acting awards went to a roster of well-known Philadelphia actors, including: Kate Eastwood Norris (ROCK N' ROLL, the Wilma Theatre); Michael Philip O'Brien (AVENUE X, 11th Hour Theatre); Jennie Eisenhower (FORBIDDEN BROADWAY'S GREATEST HITS, Walnut Street Theatre); Jered McLenigan (IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE! A LIVE RADIO PLAY, Prince Music Theatrer); Janis Dardaris (SCORCHED, the Wilma Theatre); Forrest McClendon (AVENUE X, 11th Hour Theatre); and Mary Martello (CANDIDE, Arden Theatre Co).

SCORCHED, Wilma Theatre, Outstanding Play Ensemble: (L-R) J. Paul Nicholas, Janis Dardaris, Ariel Shafir, Leila Buck
Photo by Jim Roese
click to enlarge

Play/Musical Ensemble Awards went to: SCORCHED (Wilma Theatre) and CINDERELLA (People's Light & Theatre Company). Accepting the award on behalf of the SCORCHED cast, AEA member Leila Buck said: "First I want to thank the amazing woman who brought us all together and made this production what it was - our director, Blanka Zizka. Theater is an art of collaboration, and the Wilma is its own outstanding ensemble, from staff to designers. One of the greatest strengths of playwright Wajdi Mouawad's work is that it is both specific and universal. Based in the intertwined and deeply complex experiences of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the war in Lebanon, it tells a tale that resonates throughout our troubled world. As a Lebanese-American actress, I am particularly proud to have been part of a production that portrays Arab women as we rarely see them in this country, but as I have always known them to be -- strong, resilient, and beautiful. This award belongs to them, and to all the men and women throughout the world who struggle each day to meet brutality and pain with love and dignity."

The $10,000 F. Otto Haas Award for an emerging artist went to costume designer Charlotte Cloe Fox Wind, who won a Barrymore Award as outstanding musical actress several years ago.

Actor Tony Danza, who played Philadelphia in the national tour of THE PRODUCERS, and is currently teaching in a Northeast high school, presented Theatre Education and Community Service Award to the Lantern Theater Company's "Classroom Connections." The Delaware Theatre Company received the "New Approaches to Collaborations" for the work with Ferris School for Boys in NO CHILD.

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