BPAs honor excellence in community musical theatre; Theatre Mask Awards recognize excellence in plays
Arts For Life will celebrate its 20th
anniversary June 9 at the annual Best Performance Awards, which honors
excellence in community theater and youth musicals. It is the oldest and
longest continually running theater awards in St. Louis.
Since it began in 1998, AFL’s goal has been “Making a Dramatic
Difference” and is proud to salute, support and serve the theater groups in the
metropolitan St. Louis area. The non-profit organization continues to be
passionate about the healing power of the performing arts.
AFL President Mary McCreight said the group is dedicated to
promoting public awareness of local community theater, encouraging excellence
in the arts and acknowledging the incredible people who take part.
“St. Louis is an amazing city, especially for the arts.
There are over sixty theatre companies at home here, a third of which are
community theatre. As we watch music education and theatre programs rapidly die
in our schools, the need to keep community theatre alive is more important now
than ever,” McCreight said.
Admission is $25 in advance on the www.artsforlife.org
website, or $26 with credit card at the door. All tickets are reserved seating.
Formal attire is requested.
The special event starts at 2 p.m. at the Skip Viragh
Center for the Performing Arts on the Chaminade College Preparatory School campus,
425 S. Lindbergh Blvd. Ryan Cooper, a local professional actor, will return as
master of ceremonies for the fifth time.
When Lucinda Gyurci founded AFL, the first awards were
handed out in 1999, with 14 musicals from 11 groups nominated through the group’s
judging panel, the Theatre Recognition Guild.
“I wasn’t sure the Best Performance Awards would go beyond
one year. The first year was extremely difficult, being met with (sometimes
hostile) negativity, trepidation of being judged, a tremendous amount of work
and no funds,” Gyurci said. “However, barring past the nay-sayers, the event
happened by sheer will. One could feel the electricity in the air at the event
and for the first time the participants realized this was an opportunity to
recognize excellent work and celebrate each other within the theatre community.”
Gyurci said it was the first theater event in St. Louis
that was like the Tony Awards, which makes it the area’s oldest and longest
continually running theatre awards.
This year, 48 shows – 21 large, 7 small and 20 youth — produced
by 26 community theater groups in St. Louis, St. Charles County and metro-east
Illinois were eligible for BPA awards consideration, with 1,302 artists judged
Trophies will be awarded in 33 categories. Performances
from the 13 nominated musicals for best productions – small (3) and large (5) ensembles
and youth (5) – will be included.
The Lifetime Achievement Award is being given to Joe Paule
Sr., a longtime musician and musical director. He was one of the orchestra
nominees in 1999.
“Theater is alive and kicking in 2019 and local theaters in
metro St. Louis and Illinois are to be commended for a job well done,”
“The awards are a wonderful way for all actors and tech crews to celebrate and
enjoy each other’s successes and be recognized and rewarded,” McCreight said.
For the first time ever, metro-east theater groups
dominated the Best Musical – Large and Small Ensemble categories, with 5 of the
8 nods: Alfresco Productions, Curtain’s Up Theater, Goshen Theatre Project,
Looking Glass Playhouse and Riverbend Youth Theatre
Nominations were announced at the 10th annual AFL Trivia
Night Feb. 2, with 43 percent of nominees recognized for the first time. Goshen
Theatre Project in Madison County led the BPA nominations, with 23 – 12 for
“The Lion King Jr.” and 11 for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”
Curtain’s Up Theater Company in Edwardsville earned 19 – 16
for “Into the Woods,” and 3 for “Little Miss Sunshine” – and tied with Alfresco
Productions in Granite City with 19 – 12 for ‘Dames at Sea” and 7 for “Beauty
and the Beast.”
The Alpha Players of Florissant received 11 nominations,
with 7 for “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and 4 for “Bells Are Ringing.”
Among youth productions, Shooting Star led the way with 14
for “Big Fish.”
Two special youth awards will be given to Caroline Santiago Turner, who will
receive Best Youth Musical Performance for “Violet,” and Sean Harvey,
named Best Youth Featured Dancer, as Bobby in “Crazy for You,” both
produced by the Gateway Center for the Performing Arts.
The Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon, Ill., lead all AFL
nominations, with a total of 31, which included 22 BPA nods and 9 Theatre Mask
Their musical, “Newsies,” garnered 14 nominations, while
musicals “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” and “The Wizard of Oz” each scored 4.
On the TMA side, their production of the drama, “Frost/Nixon” received 9 and
Five years ago, AFL started the Theatre Mask Awards, which
recognizes work in straight plays produced by community theater. Ten groups
currently participate, and a judging panel evaluated 25 shows – 12 dramas and
13 comedies — for the 2018 calendar year.
The fourth annual event took place on April 6 at a brunch celebration
at The Atrium banquet center on the campus of Christian Northeast Hospital,
with a sold-out crowd of 256 in attendance. Longtime radio personality Vic
Porcelli was the host.
Kevin Frakes of Alton Little Theater received the Lifetime
Achievement Award for his 40 years as a performer, director, producer and set
designer. He is currently president of the ALT board of directors.
Awards were presented in 18 categories, with LGP’s
“Frost/Nixon” tying with Actors’ Attic’s local premiere of “The Curious
Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” for Outstanding Drama Production.
Clayton Community Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s
“Brighton Beach Memoirs” won three awards, including outstanding comedy
production and for actor Patrick Blanner as Eugene and director Sam Hack.
“Frost/Nixon” also won for director Glenn Saltamachia,
supporting actor Mike Russell (as Reston) and large ensemble.
The two leading performers in “The Curious Incident,” Dan Haller and Emily
Brutton, won acting honors.
Other multiple winners included O’Fallon TheatreWorks’ play
version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” which won two — supporting
actress for Tori Stukins and costume design for Carole Lanham.
The drama “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” received awards
for two different theater groups’ productions. Alton Little Theater’s show won
lighting design for Lee Cox and Dennis R. Stephenson and the O’Fallon Theatre
Works’ play won set design for Chris and Ellie Lanham.
Alton Little Theater also won outstanding actress in a
comedy – Alison Beach as three different ‘heiresses’ in “Who’s in Bed with the
The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves was honored with three
acting awards. Kaylee Ryan won outstanding juvenile performance in “The
Children’s Hour” while Will Shaw won supporting actor in a comedy in Steve
Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile”” and Sarah Hirshfield won supporting
actress in a comedy in Neil Simon’s “Laughter on the 23rd Floor.”
Clayton’s “Bus Stop” won Best Large Ensemble.
“I am proud of the dedication of the TMA Steering Committee
and Director Glenn Guillermo,” McCreight said. “The AFL Board of Directors
congratulates all participants/nominees in last year’s shows. I am happy to see
the TMAs thriving and creating a niche for yourselves in the theater
Visit the website for more information:
www.artsforlife.org. For a PDF of the BPA nominations for 2018, here is the
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, 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 and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.