AFL’s 2021 Theatre Mask Awards, honoring excellence in community theatre
productions of plays during 2020, will be pre-recorded and premiere as a virtual
ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 3, on AFL’s YouTube Channel.
Act Two Theatre’s production of the farce “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” leads this
year’s Theatre Mask Awards nominations with nine. Alton Little Theater, with its two
productions of “Inherit the Wind” and “The Miracle Worker,” earned 12 nominations in
total – six for each.

Two classic comedies by Clayton Community Theatre, “The Philadelphia Story,” and
Monroe Actors Stage Company, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” both received eight
nominations apiece.

Arts For Life announced the TMA nominations on March 12, during the nonprofit
organization’s first-ever virtual trivia night.

Awards in nine non-musical play categories will be announced. The format has been
scaled back to reflect the number of eligible plays.

Normally, 11 community theater companies participate in the TMAs, with awards in 18
categories, but last year’s shutdown forced show cancellations.

“The TMAs were able to do eight shows last year and so the show must go on. Several
categories were combined to allow for more nominees,” said AFL President Mary
McCreight.

Tim Naegelin, co-chair of the TMA Steering Committee, explained the reasoning behind
2021’s awards ceremony.

“2020 was a difficult year. Most theatre was cancelled after March, but the TMA
Steering Committee and the AFL Board of Directors believed the Theatre Recognition
Guild had reviewed enough shows to make a successful TMA event. With only eight
shows eligible, some categories have been combined so that we do not lose the
integrity of our awards and nominations. To that end, there will not be a division of
drama and comedy categories for this year,” Naegelin said.

During 2020, beginning in mid-March, a shutdown because of the global COVID-19
pandemic happened. Because of the public health emergency in Illinois and Missouri.
performance venues were closed, gatherings limited to a percentage of capacity and
safety protocols in place, including social distancing and face coverings to lessen
community spread.

Because of the coronavirus crisis, AFL adopted measures to foster the protection of
those who work and play in metropolitan St. Louis-southwest Illinois community theater.
“We will continue our charitable mission of service and recognition once it is safe to do
so,” McCreight said.

TMA Eligible Shows
For this year’s TMA awards, Act Two Theater in St. Peters garnered nine nominations –
for production, actress, supporting actor and actress, director, costume design and
lighting design, and as the only nominee for Best Ensemble, has won that award
already.

They staged the 2004 farce by Michael Parker in February 2020. It is about a California
billionaire who has bequeathed all of his assets to his only daughter, Constance –
except the $22 million yacht he wanted Josephine to have, a $25 million art collection
left to Renee, and some priceless antique automobiles willed to Marjorie. She arrives at
her father’s mansion with her lawyer to find out who these women are and discovers the
butler seems to hold the key.

Act Two, with 43 nominations since 2016, swept the 2017 TMAs, with “Drop Dead”
winning Best Comedy and “The Boys Next Door” winning Best Drama.

Over the years, Clayton Community Theatre has received 113 nominations, sweeping
last year’s TMAs with “A Soldier’s Play” and “Biloxi Blues” as winners in drama and
comedy.

They staged “The Philadelphia Story” in March 2020, the classic romantic comedy by
Philip Barry about privileged Tracy Lord, who is divorced from CK Dexter Haven, and
engaged to a successful young snob. A society paper sends a reporter to cover the
wedding arrangements, and she finds herself interested. Romantic entanglements
ensue. It has eight nominations – for production, director, actress, supporting actress
(2), lighting, costume and set designs.

“The Solid Gold Cadillac,” the 1954 play by George S. Kaufman and Howard
Teichmann, has a little old lady beat wicked corporate shareholders at their own game.
MASC staged it in February 2020 and has received eight nominations – for director,
actor, actress, supporting actor and actress, costume, set and lighting designs.

The Alton Little Theater has a total of 12 nominations, with six for “Inherit the Wind” –
production, director, actor, supporting actor and set design, which they staged last
January and February, and six for “The Miracle Worker” – production, director, actress
(2), costumes and set design, which they produced last October. Kevin Frakes is a
three-time nominee for both his set designs and directing “The Miracle Worker.”
“Inherit the Wind” is the fictional account of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial by Jerome
Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. “The Miracle Worker” by William Gibson tells the story of

Helen Keller, blind and deaf after childhood fever, and her governess and teacher,
Annie Sullivan.

Looking Glass Playhouse received four nominations – for production, actor, supporting
actor and set design for “It’s Only a Play,” a comedy by Terence McNally about an
opening night after-party where a producer, playwright, director, actors and their friends
eagerly wait for the reviews. They presented it in March 2020.

Since 2015, Monroe Actors Stage Company in Waterloo, Ill., has received 83
nominations over the years, Alton Little Theatre over 80 nominations, and Looking
Glass Players in Lebanon, Ill., 43 nominations.

The 2020 TMA nominations include:

BEST PRODUCTION
“Inherit the Wind,” Alton Little Theater
“It’s Only a Play,” Looking Glass Theatre
“The Miracle Worker,” Alton Little Theater
“The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theatre
“Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” Act Two Theatre

BEST DIRECTOR
Lee Cox, “Inherit the Wind,” Alton Little Theater
Kevin Frakes, “The Miracle Worker,” Alton Little Theater
Paul James, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” Act Two Theatre
Heather Sartin, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theatre
Rebecca Zimmermann, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company

BEST ACTOR
Howard S Bell, “Inherit the Wind,” Alton Little Theater
Shea Maples, “Inherit the Wind,” Alton Little Theater
Steve Shininger, “It’s Only a Play,” Looking Glass Playhouse
David Zimmerman, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company

BEST ACTRESS
Kelsey McCroskey, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theater
Marisa Puller, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” Act Two Theatre
Emily Schneider, “The Miracle Worker,” Alton Little Theater
Maria Wilken, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company
Kya Wonders, “The Miracle Worker,” Alton Little Theater

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Matt Dossett, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company
Brad Kinzel, “It’s Only a Play,” Looking Glass Playhouse
Brant McCance, “Inherit the Wind,” Alton Little Theater
Todd Micali, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” Act Two Theater

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Linda Daly, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” Act Two Theatre
Jenifer Elias, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company
Monica Lee, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theater
Trish Nelke, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?”, Act Two Theatre
Caitlin Souers, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theater

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Lee Cox, “Inherit the Wind,” Alton Little Theatre
Jean Heckmann, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” Act Two Theatre
Julie Smailys, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theatre
Rebecca Zimmerman, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN
Nathan Schroeder, “The Philadelphia Story,” Clayton Community Theatre
Todd Wilken, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company

BEST SET DESIGN
Andrew Cary, Zac Cary and Heather Sartin, “The Philadelphia Story, Clayton
Community Theatre
Kevin Frakes, “The Miracle Worker,” Alton Little Theater
Kevin Frakes, “Inherit the Wind,” Alton Little Theater
Chris Resimius, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?” Act Two Theatre
Brad Sanker, “It’s Only a Play,” Looking Glass Playhouse
Todd Wilken, “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” Monroe Actors Stage Company

BEST ENSEMBLE
Act Two Theatre, “Who’s in Bed with the Butler?”

AFL Adjusts Events in 2020-2021/Mission Remains the Same

Last year, AFL transitioned to streamed formats for both their TMA and Best
Performance Awards (musical theater and youth productions) shows honoring
productions in 2019.

The BPAs have been cancelled in 2021, and the few musicals that were performed in
early 2020 will be considered for the 2022 awards. In April 2020, the AFL president
suspended all public activities of the AFL organization, and then the board extended
suspension of the Theatre Recognition Guild judging activities, for the BPA branch
(musicals), through July 1, 2021.

“Arts for Life is plugging along with theater-starved actors for a new day! On Friday,
AFL proceeded to produce our first ever Virtual Trivia Night to announce the Theatre

Mask Awards (TMAs) nominations. It was well-attended and a lot of fun,” McCreight
said.

“With the Best Performance Awards cancelled this year due to not being able to have
shows in 2020, heads were down. But old habits don't die. The Trivia Night’s audio and
visual musical categories brought us back to life,” she said.

“All is well with AFL. We will survive and look forward to meeting again in July. Where
there’s a will, there’s a way, and I thank all theater groups who are working to create a
safe and pleasing future,” McCreight said.

McCreight emphasized that the AFL board will continue to base their decisions upon the
best information currently available and will continue to share information promptly and
transparently.

Naegelin is hopeful that more productions will be able to be mounted in 2021.

“I love the work that AFL/TMA does in supporting and promoting community theatre.
From helping provide a sense of community, to providing scholarships, and mentoring
at risk students in local theatre programs, AFL/TMA provides a full range of support to
the St. Louis metro area. I'm excited that we can continue that, even in our limited way,
in 2021, he said.

Co-chair Melissa Boyer was optimistic as well.

“I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the TMAs. I’m excited to co-chair this
committee and look forward to finding ways to grow the TMAs and find opportunities for
people to be involved with this wonderful, dedicated group. We are all looking forward to
theatres being able to safely open again and welcoming new members to the TMA
Theatre Recognition Guild,” Boyer said.

AFL was founded in 1994 by Lucinda Guyrci as a local non-profit organization dedicated
to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the under-served and the
community. The BPAs have honored musical theater since 1999 and the TMAs have
honored plays since 2015.

“We hope that you and your loved ones have stayed safe during this difficult time,”
McCreight said. “Because of your commitment to our community and belief in our
mission, my optimism is not diminished about AFL being able to move forward once this
unprecedented time passes.”

Besides co-chairs Boyer and Naegelin, the TMA Steering Committee officers are Laurie
Blanner, recorder; Linda Daly, marketing facilitator; and Keaton Treece, Theatre
Recognition Guild director.

To see a complete list of the nominees and awards history, visit the website:
www.artsforlife.org

For more information, contact AFL TRG Secretary Kim Klick at [email protected]
 The YouTube Channel link:https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCSL5RPbHTrhbc0mbHcWnA

The awards be available afterwards for later viewing. Please subscribe to the Arts For Life
STL channel so you can get a reminder of the event.
Be sure to subscribe/like to our social media:
https://www.facebook.com/artsforlifestlouishttps://twitter.com/arts_for_life

Article originally appeared in Arts For Life’s Feb. 18 newsletter. Article written by Kim Klick and Lynn Venhaus

After working as a professional actor and singer for more than 30 years in Las Vegas, including performing opera at the Venetian Hotel on the Strip, Kimmie decided to move back to her hometown.

To leave her comfort zone and start over at 45 years old was daunting.

“More than a few people thought I must have been crazy!” she said.

But she knew it was time for a change and she did have support.

She was hired to work at Nordstrom Department Stores and found an apartment in Valley Park.

“I thought I’d be satisfied with all of that, but I wasn’t. Frankly, I was quite miserable. I was lonely, broke and terribly homesick! Most of all, I missed performing.”

However, things slowly fell into place. She not only found her way into the St. Louis theatre scene but reconnected with childhood friends, settled down here and married Gregg Booker. They grew up in the same neighborhood, and found each other on Facebook.

She started researching St. Louis theater companies, sending out letters and headshots, hoping to be acknowledged, but no response.

One day in 2012, she came across an audition for an upcoming production of August Wilson’s “Fences” at Hawthorne Players.

“I hadn’t even heard of August Wilson! Can you believe that? Someone like me, who has done theatre her entire life, had not heard of August Wilson?”

She showed up, prepared but “terrified.”

“A little-known fact about me is that I had never done a ‘straight play’ before! I had always done musical theatre. So, to put myself in a position where I had to just ACT, well, it was unchartered territory for me, to say the least!”

She was offered the part of Rose, the long-suffering wife who is married to the lead character, Troy.

Kimmie Kidd-Booker in “Fences” at the Hawthorne Players. Photo by Larry Marsh

“It’s one of the most important, historical, emotional, heartfelt roles to exist in American Theatre. I thought, ‘What the hell did I get myself into?’” she said.
She did not need to fret.

“This was one of the best and most fulfilling theater experiences of my career,” she said.

For the record, August Wilson was not only an African American playwright, but also was an amazingly talented award-winning playwright who died too soon at the age of 60, Kidd-Booker explained.

“Fences” is part of Wilson’s celebrated “Pittsburgh Cycle,” sometimes called “The Century Cycle,” in which he wrote 10 plays, each set in a certain decade of the 20th century.

Set in the 1957, it is the sixth play of the cycle, premiered in 1985, and like the others, explores the evolving African American experience and among other themes, examines race relations.

Troy is a Negro Baseball League player who now works as a garbageman – but can’t be a driver (yet). His bitterness is apparent and affects his family – wife Rose and sons Lyons and Cory, and disabled brother Gabriel.

“Fences” won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play.
“I am honored and privileged to say I performed in an August Wilson play! Being in an August Wilson play was both thrilling and terrifying. The context is historic and genuine and dramatic. His words are thoughtful and compelling and emotional,” she said.

 While “Fences” is her only August Wilson play to date, she said she is optimistic that moving forward, there will be more opportunities to educate, perform, explore and share the African American experience with everyone.

“Black History Month is just a drop in the bucket. But it is certainly a start. My hope moving forward is that we can continue to gain an understanding of each other and continue a dialogue and put fears to rest. We have many differences, but we must continue to be reminded that we are more alike than we’d like to think,” Kimmie said.

Before she debuted in “Fences,” after a year here, she was considering returning to Las Vegas.

But once she started rehearsals with the cast and crew, then bonding with everyone, she decided to stay.

“My love for theatre kept me here in St. Louis. As I began to meet other theatre people and make more and more theatre connections, I knew that this is where I belonged. These are my People!” she said.

As Eliza Haycraft in the original musical “Madam”

Kimmie recently became part of the AFL Board of Directors. She has won two Best Performance Awards for Best Featured Actress as Glinda in “The Wiz” at Hawthorne Players in 2014 and as Estonia Dulworth in “Nice Work If You Can Get It” at the Kirkwood Theatre Guild in 2019.

She was nominated as Best Actress in a Featured Role as Sister Mary Hubert in “Nunsense” at Hawthorne Players in 2015 and as The Witch in “Into the Woods” at Curtain’s Up Theater in 2018.

Among her roles in regional professional theater, she played Tom Robinson’s wife in “To Kill a Mockingbird” at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, as Lady Bird in Stray Dog Theatre’s “Spellbound: A Musical Fable”and in the ensemble of “Sweeney Todd,” as “Aunt Missy” in The Black Rep’s “Purlie” and as Evangeline Harcourt in “Anything Goes” at New Line Theatre. In January 2020, she starred as brothel owner and philanthropist Eliza Haycraft in the original musical, “Madam.”

About August Wilson

August Wilson

Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel in Pittsburgh, Penn., on April 27, 1945. His mother, Daisy Wilson, was of African American heritage. His father, Frederick Kittel, was a German immigrant.

As a child, Kittel attended St. Richard’s Parochial School. When his parents divorced, he, his mother and his siblings moved from the poor Bedford Avenue area of Pittsburgh to the mostly white neighborhood of Oakland. After facing the relentless bigotry of his classmates at Central Catholic High School, he transferred to Connelly Vocational High School, and later to Gladstone High School.

When he was 15 years old, Wilson pursued an independent education at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where he would earn his high school diploma.

Following his father’s death in 1965, a 20-year-old Wilson adopted the pen name “August Wilson” — reportedly an homage to his mother — and declared himself a poet. In 1968, Wilson and a friend, Rob Penny, co-founded the Black Horizon Theater.

Wilson remained primarily focused on making it as a poet — largely to no avail — until moving to St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1978.

Wilson wrote his first notable play in 1979,” Jitney,” for which he earned a fellowship at the Minneapolis Playwright Center.

The following year, his new play, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” was accepted at the Eugene O’Neill Playwright’s Conference. The year 1982 was particularly fruitful for Wilson, as it marked his introduction to Lloyd Richards, who went on to direct Wilson’s first six Broadway plays.

“Joe Turner,” the second part of the cycle, opened on Broadway in 1988.He took home another Pulitzer Prize in 1990, this time for The Piano Lesson, following its Broadway premiere.

Wilson died of liver cancer on Oct. 2, 2005, in Seattle. His new play, “Radio Golf,” had opened in Los Angeles just a few months earlier.

Information from www.biography.com is included here.

Mrs. Harcourt in “Anything Goes” at New Line Theatre 2018

There’s no business like show business! Arts For Life is devoted to supporting community theater in these pandemic times and will host its annual Trivia Night – only with a few twists.

The event is set for Friday, March 12, with rounds beginning at 7 p.m. but ‘doors’ open at 6:30 p.m. Teams can have up to 8 players and the cost is $10 per person/$80 a team. Mulligans and 50-50 tickets are available separately.

During the evening, nominations for the sixth annual Theatre Mask Awards will be announced. A scaled-back format is planned for a virtual awards ceremony on April 3. The TMAs honor plays – both comedy and drama – produced by community theater companies in the St. Louis metropolitan area, including the metro-east and St Charles County.

The Best Performance Awards, which recognizes excellence in community musical theatre, have been cancelled for this year.

“We hope groups will come together from their homes to share in the camaraderie of the arts community and have a fun evening celebrating theater,” said AFL President Mary McCreight. “AFL plans to return to its regular activities once it is safe to do so during this public health crisis.”

Using the teleconferencing platform Zoom, the AFL Board of Directors is producing an evening of eight rounds of 10 all-theater questions.

Colin Dowd, who is on the AFL Board of Directors and has been a BPA winner and TMA nominee, will be the host.

Registration will close on March 10. When registering, the team needs to designate a team captain. Information updates will be sent to the team captain to pass along to their teammates.

Players are encouraged to wear cast T-shirts that evening. (Pajama pants optional!).

To register or for more information, visit the website, www.artsforlife.org

Any questions may be directed to AFL Secretary Kim Klick — email [email protected]

Arts For Life’s fifth annual Theatre Mask Awards will now take place in cyberspace on Saturday, July 18, rather than during a brunch at The Atrium banquet center at Christian Hospital.

This year’s event has been cancelled and reimagined because of the current coronavirus public health situation and gathering restrictions in St. Louis County.

The 2020 Theatre Mask Awards, honoring excellence in community theatre productions of dramas and comedies during 2019, will premiere at 11 a.m. as a live interactive viewing event on the AFL Facebook page, but the awards show will have been pre-recorded.

In addition to the TMA Facebook Watch Party, the video will be on the AFL YouTube channel as a live event and then will remain for later viewings. Please subscribe so you can get a reminder of the event.

TMA will announce winners in 18 non-musical play categories. Eleven community theater companies participate in the TMAs.

Since mid-March, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire St. Louis Metropolitan region. With the need to maintain social distancing and to wear face coverings to lessen community spread, as well as the fact that all AFL performance venues remain closed at this time, the TMA Steering Committee made the difficult decision to cancel the annual TMA gathering and transition to a streamed format .

AFL had previously announced the switch to virtual for the Best Performance Awards, which honors musical theater and youth productions. That ceremony will be streamed Sunday, June 14, at 2 p.m. on the AFL YouTube channel. The TMAs, originally set for April 4, had been moved earlier to July 18.

Uncertainty about when large groups can safely gather in St. Louis County is another factor.

AFL President Mary McCreight emphasizes that the AFL board will continue to base their decisions upon the best information currently available in this rapidly evolving situation and will continue to share information promptly and transparently, mindful of the need for our community to receive timely updates.

“While we are disappointed that we cannot produce the regular in-person ceremony that so many people look forward to attending, we hope that moving to a stream-based format will still provide an opportunity for our local arts community to come together online and celebrate the many outstanding achievements of the previous year,” McCreight said.

The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves led all St. Louis- southwest Illinois metropolitan area community theaters with 27 nominations.

The TGWG produces five plays a season and received nominations for five of its shows during the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (10), “The Bad Seed” (5), “Over the Tavern” (5), “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” (4) and “Dial ‘M’ for Murder” (3).

Clayton Community Theatre notched 24 nominations — “Biloxi Blues” (13), “A Soldier’s Play” (10) and “Eurydice” (1). CCT also broke a record for having the most acting nominations from a single show – 8 for “Biloxi Blues.”

To see a complete list of the nominees, visit the website: www.artsforlife.org

McCreight had previously suspended all public activities of the AFL organization, effective March 16 until at least May 1, and then the board extended suspension of the Theatre Recognition Guild judging activities, for the BPA branch (musicals), through July 31.

However, some TMA-eligible productions may open earlier if conditions permit. TMA branch judges and participating groups should be alert for announcements regarding future developments.

“As our world, our nation and our region face a major health threat, it falls upon us as a community to adopt measures that will both foster the protection of those who work and ‘play’ in Metro St. Louis community theatre and ultimately allow AFL to continue our charitable mission of service and recognition once the threat passes,” the president added.

For those who have purchased TMA tickets, AFL will contact you about refund options and how your money can be returned. Instead of receiving a refund you might also consider treating the purchase amount as a tax-deductible donation to AFL.

Any company that wins can pick up their trophies on July 19 at 1 p.m. in the parking lot of Clayton Community Theatre.

“We’d like them to send one representative to collect everything and then disperse to the winners,” said TMA/AFL board member Melissa Boyer.

McCreight said AFL appreciates the support shown during these difficult times.

“I am incredibly grateful to all of our constituencies – the board, judges, participating groups, audience members and donors – for their commitment to AFL and their engagement and unwavering support of our local theatre community during these uncertain times,” McCreight said.

AFL was founded in 1994 by Lucinda Guyrci as a local non-profit organization dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the under-served and the community. The BPAs have honored musical theater since 1999 and the TMAs have honored plays since 2015.

“We hope that you and your loved ones stay safe during this difficult time,” McCreight said. “Because of your commitment to our community and belief in our mission, my optimism is not diminished about AFL being able to move forward once this unprecedented time passes.” 

For more information, contact AFL TRG Secretary Kim Klick at [email protected]

Be sure to subscribe/like to our social media: https://www.facebook.com/artsforlifestlouis, https://twitter.com/arts_for_life and YouTube channel.