Two classic 1930s comedies and a World War II anti-fascist drama were multiple winners at the seventh annual Theatre Mask Awards presented by Arts For Life on April 9.
Award-winning theater companies included Act Two Theatre in St. Peters, Mo., Clayton Community Theatre, Kirkwood Theatre Guild, Monroe Actors Stage Company in Waterloo, Ill., O’Fallon Theatre Works in O’Fallon, Mo., and the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves.
Through the nonprofit organization AFL, the TMAs have honored drama and comedy plays in the St. Louis and metro-east Illinois metropolitan area since 2015.
Saturday was AFL’s first live and in-person awards event since 2019, although the TMAs were awarded virtually in 2020 and 2021.
Live theater returned at regional community theater companies in the St. Louis-metro-east metropolitan area last year, with nine productions eligible for TMAs.
Kirkwood Theatre Guild’s production of the 1939 play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” won five awards, including acting honors for Ken Lopinot as Outstanding Leading Actor in a Comedy, for playing the insufferable house guest and NYC radio wit Sheridan Whiteside; Kent Coffel as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy, for playing British actor/playwright Beverly Carlton; and Brittany Kohl Hester as Outstanding Leading Actress in a Comedy as Whiteside’s secretary Maggie Cutler. The play also won for Best Director Danny Brown and Costume Designer Abby Pastorello.
The play features 38 parts. KTG led all groups with 13 nominations, and had tied the record for most acting nominations in a single show, with eight for “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” In 2019, Clayton Community Theatre garnered eight for Neil Simon’s “Biloxi Blues.”
Act Two Theatre in St. Peters, Mo., took home four awards for Noel Coward’s sophisticated ghost story “Blithe Spirit” — Outstanding Production of a Play, Outstanding Ensemble of a Play, Jacki Goodall winning Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy for portraying flamboyant medium Madame Arcati and Chase Coates for Best Lighting Design. They had received 11 nominations, second only to KTG.
Monroe Actors Stage Company in Waterloo, Ill., had nine nominations for Lillian Helman’s 1941 drama “Watch on the Rhine,” with two women winning for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Drama, Julia L. Petraborg as Sara Mueller, the American wife of the German engineer protagonist, and Caitlin Bomberger for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama as Marthe de Brancovis, who is married to a Nazi sympathizer.
Other winners included Shane Rudolph for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Drama as escaped convict and ruthless killer Glenn Griffin in “The Desperate Hours,” which was presented by the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves, and Jonathan Garland for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama as the philosophical pianist Toledo in August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” produced by Clayton Community Theatre.
Christopher Lanham and Ellie Lanham won Outstanding Set Design for their work on O’Fallon Theatre Work’s “Little Women.”
Seven award winners were first-time nominees. The 14 awards were presented during a brunch ceremony at The Christy in St. Louis.
This year’s TMAs were reduced from 19 to 14 awards, because of a smaller number of productions.
TMA Chairman Melissa Boyer was grateful to be celebrating theater again.
“2021 was a year of uncertainty, but I want to commend the passion and the bravery of our judges in venturing out to support our theaters. Congratulations to the many companies that were able to reopen this year with outstanding productions. And considering we only had a half a year – nine shows is outstanding,” Boyer said.
“So happy to see the enthusiasm among theater groups for recognizing excellence among their peers and cheering each other on. I heard many positive comments,” said AFL President Mary McCreight.
Mark Lull, a local actor, nine-time awards nominee, and member of the AFL board of directors, served as the emcee.
Presenters included Kelsey McCroskey, Jesse Resimius, Heather Sartin, Ellen Schroeder, Nathan Schroeder, Caitlin Souers and Keaton Treece. Stephen Anderson handed out the trophies.
The complete list of nominations can be found at: https://nebula.wsimg.com/9b9b1e3565835dd90498e28468ef7f1d?AccessKeyId=901C1079C3BABD637603&disposition=0&alloworigin=1
Prior to the pandemic, 15 theater groups and 10 youth-only groups participated in the BPAs while 11 were involved in the TMAs. As the region’s mitigations efforts were ongoing the past two years, only four youth-only groups and nine community theater organizations produced BPA-eligible musicals while seven participated in TMAs in 2021.
Arts For Life is a local not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the underserved, and the community, with its goal of “Making a Dramatic Difference.”
AFL is dedicated to promoting public awareness of local community theatre, encouraging excellence in the arts, and acknowledging the incredible people who are a part of it.
Best Performance Awards June 12
Next up is the Best Performance Awards, which has honored musical theater in community and youth productions since AFL’s founding in 1999.
Because of the public health crisis, AFL held its BPAs virtually in 2020, while BPAs were not held in 2021.
The 22nd Best Performance Awards will be at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 12, at the Frontenac Hilton, Clayton Ballroom, 1335 S Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis 63131.
Formal attire is requested, and the event will be general admission theater-style seating. A cash bar will be available.
This year’s BPAs include nominees from the shortened 2020 and 2021 theater seasons.
BPA tickets are either $20 as an early bird pricing before May 12, or $25 after that until June 12. They are available online with a service fee of $2 added: https://arts-for-life-2.square.site/.
Reservations can be arranged through the mail and tickets can be picked up at the venues on event day. Please make check payable to ARTS FOR LIFE and mail to PO Box 16426, St. Louis, MO 63125.
All BPA ticket orders will be held at the box office unless a self-addressed stamped envelope is included with ticket order. If ordering for a group, please attach a list of individual names for box office pick-up.
Please contact us at [email protected] if you have any special seating needs or COVID-19 related concerns. Handicapped seating is available
Groups participating in this year’s BPAs include Christ Memorial Productions, Dayspring Arts and Education, Gateway Center for the Performing Arts, Goshen Theatre Project, Hawthorne Players, Kirkwood Theatre Guild, KTK Productions, Looking Glass Playhouse, Monroe Actors Stage Company, O’Fallon Theatre Works, Over Due Theatre, Spotlight Productions and Take Two Productions.
For more information, visit the website at www.artsforlife.org
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat daily newspaper. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association.