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    Posted July 26, 2011

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Spring in Boston: Theatre in Bloom

By Donna Sorbello
Boston Liaison Committee

Three annual spring events signified the thriving theatre scene in Boston: The Independent Reviewers of New England Awards (the IRNES), The Boston Theatre Marathon, and the Elliot Norton Awards.

On April 25th, the IRNE committee, comprising more than 14 local theatre reviewers dedicated to covering every production that is mounted in the New England area, hosted the awards at the Boston Center for the Arts. Forty-eight--yes, count 'em-- 48 awards were distributed; many going to local AEA actors including Tommy Derrah, Karen MacDonald, Will Lyman and Anne Gottlieb, all Boston favorites. Spiro Veloudos, Artistic Director of Lyric Stage, was honored with a Best Director Award. Huntington Theatre came away with twelve awards honoring artistic efforts for ALL MY SONS, RUINED, and VENGEANCE IS THE LORD'S, while American Repertory Theatre garnered six awards for its production of THE BLUE FLOWER. The IRNES began in 1999, originated by Beverly Creasey (writer for Journal Newspapers) and Larry Stark (Theatre Mirror).

On May 22nd, the Boston Theatre Marathon, a day of 50 ten-minute plays by local playwrights held at Huntington's Calderwood Theatre, delighted and surprised audiences with its comic and dramatic range. The prior day "warm ups" offered readings of four longer plays by New England writers. Through a Theatre Authority agreement, many AEA actors performed this spring in the Marathon's 13th season, with all proceeds going to the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund. Boston Playwrights' Theatre Artistic Director, Kate Snodgrass, began this smorgasbord of drama and the event has been magically coordinated from its onset by Marc Olivere, production coordinator of Boston Playwrights Theatre. Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott founded this theatre for Boston University's Masters Program in Playwriting.

On May 25th, at Emerson College's magnificently restored Orpheum Theatre, the Elliot Norton Awards (lovingly called the "Norties"), were last but not least in this annual spring triumvirate. The Norton Awards were started in honor of Elliot Norton, the Boston critic who reviewed more than 6,000 productions for Boston newspapers, as well as for Boston's WGBH, from 1958 to his retirement in l982. Elliot Norton passed away in 2003 at the age of 100. Mr. Norton was, himself, a multi- award winner for his boundless work in theatre. The Norton Award originated as the Norton Medal and has since grown to over a dozen annual awards, selected by the 12 members of the Boston Theatre Critics Association. This year, again, Equity co-sponsored the awards and several local AEA members were honored including actors Johnny Lee Davenport, Stacy Fischer, John Kuntz (actor and playwright). A Special Citation was given to Wheelock Theatre in its 30th year, and the Norton Sustained Excellence Award went to Scott Edmiston, local director and university professor, for his continued skill and artistry in directing a plethora of diverse productions, all with inventiveness, and attention to his work with actors. Along with the Boston theatre community, the Norties were also attended by AEA Executive Director, Mary McColl, and AEA Senior Business Representative, Russell Lehrer.

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