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Theatre Philadelphia Celebrates Philadelphia Theatre Community with 2016 Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre

Oct 24, 2016

This evening, in a celebration attended by approximately 900 theatre artists, staff, critics, and friends, Theatre Philadelphia distributed 27 awards at the 2016 Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, including the first-ever Victory Foundation Award for Outstanding Theatre Education Program. The Awards Ceremony was held at the beautiful Merriam Theater, followed by an After-Party at Dorrance Hamilton Hall at the University of the Arts. A full list of award recipients is below and online at www.theatrephiladelphia.org/barrymore-awards.

This year’s Barrymore Award recipients highlighted the great work being produced throughout the Greater Philadelphia region as well as reinforcing the theatre community’s ongoing commitment to new work, a diversity of voices, artistic risk-taking, and the development of new and emerging artists.

Theatre Exile led the pack for the second year in a row with five Barrymore Awards for its highly-acclaimed production of The Invisible Hand, playwright Ayad Akhtar’s chilling drama in which a successful investment banker is kidnapped in remote Pakistan and held for ransom by an Islamic militant group. Theatre Exile’s Philadelphia premiere garnered awards for Outstanding Overall Production of a Play, Outstanding Direction of a Play for Matt Pfeiffer, Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play for Maboud Ebrahimzadeh, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play for J. Paul Nicholas, and the Clear Sound Award for Outstanding Sound Design for Michael Kiley.

Norristown’s Theatre Horizon received three Barrymore Awards – the most for any musical this year – for its holiday production of Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity, including Outstanding Choreography/Movement for Jenn Rose, Outstanding Music Direction for Will Brock, and Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical for its cast of actors, singers, and dancers: Nastassja Baset, Candace Benson, Will Brock, Sanchel Brown, Adam Hoyak, Kingsley Ibeneche, Angelica Jackson-Thomas, Timotheus Peay, Kayla Anne Tarpley, and Devon Taylor.

Arden Theatre Company received two awards for musicals presented during its 2015/16 season: Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical for The Secret Garden and Outstanding Direction of a Musical for Matthew Decker’s work on The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. The awards for Outstanding Leading Actor and Supporting Actress in a Musical were presented to Scott McPheeters and Malgorzata Kasprzycka, respectively, for their roles in The Bearded Ladies Cabaret’s Andy: A Popera, a world premiere co-production with Opera Philadelphia. The Charlotte Cushman Award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play went to E. Ashley Izard for her performance as Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days at Quintessence Theatre Group. Jennifer Childs was awarded the Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical award for 1812 ProductionsI Will Not Go Gently, which she also wrote. Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play went to Jaylene Clark Owens for An Octoroon at The Wilma Theater and Jake Blouch was awarded Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical for See What I Wanna See at 11th Hour Theatre Company.

In the design categories, People’s Light took home awards for Outstanding Scenic Design for Luke Hegel-Cantarella’s design for Auctioning the Ainsleys and Outstanding Costume Design for Marla Jurglanis’ design for Sense and Sensibility. Ryan O’Gara received the Earl Girls Award for Outstanding Lighting Design for Man of La Mancha at Bristol Riverside Theatre. Josh Totora received the trophy for Outstanding Original Music for He Who Gets Slapped at Philadelphia Artists’ Collective.

Outstanding Ensemble in a Play went to the cast of The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning at Inis Nua Theatre Company for their work on the story of whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Cast members included David Glover, Campbell O’Hare, David Pica, Johnny Smith, Isa St. Clair, and Trevor Fayle.

Local playwright and “stand-up dramedian” R. Eric Thomas was awarded the Independence Foundation Award for Outstanding New Play/Musical for Time Is On Our Side, his uplifting comedy/mystery that celebrates the intersection of our city’s history with gay rights. The play was commissioned by and received its world premiere at Simpatico Theatre.

Time Is On Our Side also took home the Virginia Brown Martin Philadelphia Award, which seeks to honor the spirit of Philadelphia by acknowledging a production from any period or genre that demonstrates the ability of theatre to illuminate the ways we live and interact with others as we seek to build community.  This special Barrymore Award carries a $25,000 cash prize sponsored by the Virginia Brown Martin Fund. This year’s finalists, each of whom will receive a $2,500 cash prize, are Exit Strategy at Philadelphia Theatre Company, A Knee That Can Bend at Orbiter 3, Machinal at EgoPo Classic Theater, and White Guy on the Bus at Passage Theatre Company.

Actor, educator, Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists founding member, and three-time Barrymore Award nominee Bi Jean Ngo was honored with this year’s F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist. Named after the philanthropist, civic leader, and chairman of Rohm & Haas and created by Carole Haas Gravagno in memory of her late husband, this special Barrymore Award is presented annually to a theatre artist who shows outstanding promise in the field and is dedicated to working in the Philadelphia theatre community. The award includes a $15,000 cash prize for the recipient and. The only award of its kind in the nation, it is intended to support an artist’s living expenses so they can focus on their craft, as well as to encourage the artist to remain in the Greater Philadelphia community. The 2016 finalists are actor and composer/musician Alex Bechtel, playwright and Orbiter 3 co-founder Emma Goidel, actor and Berserker Resident Justin Jain, and actor and director Mary Tuomanen.

The June and Steve Wolfson Award for an Evolving Theatre Company seeks to recognize, promote, and reward creativity, growth, and excellence of evolving theatres within the Greater Philadelphia community. The award is intended to help foster interaction within the theatre community, increase the community’s richness and diversity, and to focus public awareness and accessibility to what it describes as the most vibrant professional theatre community in the nation. Sponsored by the June and Steve Wolfson Family Foundation, this year’s $10,000 prize was awarded to Azuka Theatre, whose mission is to strengthen the connection and shared humanity among diverse audiences by giving voice to the people whose stories go unheard. Since its founding in 1999, Azuka Theatre has staged 13 world premieres written by Philadelphia playwrights. To be considered for the award, theatres must have maximum annual budget of $400,000.

The first-ever Victory Foundation Award for Outstanding Theatre Education Program Award recognizes the diverse, rich, and impactful education programs in the Philadelphia theatre community, and seeks to put arts education and the future of the field front and center. Generously funded by the Victory Foundation, this special Barrymore Award and its $7,500 cash prize went to 1812 Productions1812 Outreach program, which reaches 80 students weekly at Widener School, South Philly High, and Franklin Learning Center, including ESOL students and non-verbal students with multiple disabilities.

A total of 35 professional theatre companies participated in the adjudication process during the 2015/16 season: 11th Hour Theatre Company, 1812 Productions, Act II Playhouse, Arden Theatre Company, Azuka Theatre, The Bearded Ladies Cabaret, Bristol Riverside Theatre, Commonwealth Classic Theatre Company, Curio Theatre Company, Delaware Theatre Company, Eagle Theatre, EgoPo Classic Theater, Flashpoint Theatre Company, Hedgerow Theatre Company, The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, Inis Nua Theatre Company, InterAct Theatre Company, Iron Age Theatre, Isis Productions, Lantern Theater Company, Mazeppa Productions, Montgomery Theater, New Freedom Theatre, Orbiter 3, Passage Theatre Company, People’s Light, The Phenomenal Animals, Philadelphia Artists’ Collective, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, Quintessence Theatre Group, Simpatico Theatre, Theatre Exile, Theatre Horizon, and The Wilma Theater.

During the 2015/16 season, which ran September 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016, an all-volunteer team of dedicated theatre artists, critics, and scholars saw 103 professional productions featuring the work of more than 600 artists throughout the Greater Philadelphia region. A team of eight Barrymore Nominators were randomly-assigned to attend each eligible production. Within 24 hours of attending the performance, each Nominator submitted an online ballot in which they cast a YES or NO vote in each of 22 artistic award categories. Productions that received at least five YES votes in any single award category were designated as Barrymore Recommended and moved on to the Judges for further Barrymore consideration.

Barrymore Judges met periodically throughout the theatre season to discuss the productions they saw, and at the end of the season Judges were provided with a master list of all category submissions for all Barrymore Recommended productions. Judges submitted their top choices in each award category to Theatre Philadelphia’s administrative director, who aggregated the results for discussion at a final Judges meeting. At this final meeting, the Judges collaboratively narrowed their choices down to a maximum of seven nominees in each play/design category and four nominees in each musical category. The award nominees appeared on a final online ballot from which the Judges privately cast their votes in each award category. These final votes were tabulated using a weighted scoring system of 7 points for each first choice vote, 6 points for each second choice vote, 5 points for each third choice vote, and so on. The finalist receiving the highest average (mean) score in each category was deemed the award recipient. Each season, the Barrymore Awards system, ballots, and nominees/recipients are analyzed and certified by an independent auditing firm, this year by Drucker & Scaccetti.

The Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre
2016 Award Recipients by Award Category

Outstanding Overall Production of a Play
The Invisible Hand (Theatre Exile)

Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical
The Secret Garden (Arden Theatre Company)

Outstanding Direction of a Play
Matt Pfeiffer for The Invisible Hand (Theatre Exile)

Outstanding Direction of a Musical
Matthew Decker for The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (Arden Theatre Company)

Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play
Maboud Ebrahimzadeh for The Invisible Hand (Theatre Exile)

Charlotte Cushman Award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play
E. Ashley Izard for Happy Days (Quintessence Theatre Group)

Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical
Scott McPheeters for Andy: A Popera (The Bearded Ladies Cabaret)

Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical
Jennifer Childs for I Will Not Go Gently (1812 Productions)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play
J. Paul Nicholas for The Invisible Hand (Theatre Exile)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play
Jaylene Clark Owens for An Octoroon (The Wilma Theater)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical
Jake Blouch for See What I Wanna See (11th Hour Theatre Company)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical
Malgorzata Kasprzycka for Andy: A Popera (The Bearded Ladies Cabaret)

Outstanding Scenic Design
Luke Hegel-Cantarella for Auctioning the Ainsleys (People’s Light)

Outstanding Costume Design
Marla Jurglanis for Sense and Sensibility (People’s Light)

Earl Girls Award for Outstanding Lighting Design
Ryan O’Gara for Man of La Mancha (Bristol Riverside Theatre)

Clear Sound Award for Outstanding Sound Design
Michael Kiley for The Invisible Hand (Theatre Exile)

Outstanding Original Music
Josh Tortora for He Who Gets Slapped (Philadelphia Artists’ Collective)

Outstanding Choreography/Movement
Jenn Rose for Black Nativity (Theatre Horizon)

Outstanding Music Direction
Will Brock for Black Nativity (Theatre Horizon)

Outstanding Ensemble in a Play
The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning (Inis Nua Theatre Company)

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical
Black Nativity (Theatre Horizon)

Independence Foundation Award for Outstanding New Play/Musical
R. Eric Thomas for Time Is On Our Side (Simpatico Theatre)

F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist
Bi Jean Ngo

Virginia Brown Martin Philadelphia Award
Time Is On Our Side (Simpatico Theatre)

June and Steve Wolfson Award for an Evolving Theatre Company
Azuka Theatre

Victory Foundation Award for Outstanding Theatre Education Program
1812 Outreach (1812 Productions)

Lifetime Achievement Award
Sara Garonzik

The Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre
2016 Award Recipients by Theatre Company / Production

Theatre Exile (5)
The Invisible Hand (5)
Outstanding Overall Production of a Play
Outstanding Direction of a Play
Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play
Clear Sound Award for Outstanding Sound Design

Theatre Horizon (3)
Black Nativity (3)
Outstanding Choreography/Movement
Outstanding Music Direction
Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical

1812 Productions (2)
I Will Not Go Gently (1)
Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical
Victory Foundation Award for Outstanding Theatre Education Program

Arden Theatre Company (2)
The Secret Garden (1)
Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (1)
Outstanding Direction of a Musical

The Bearded Ladies Cabaret (2)
Andy: A Popera (2)
Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical

People’s Light (2)
Auctioning the Ainsleys (1)
Outstanding Scenic Design
Sense and Sensibility (1)
Outstanding Costume Design

Simpatico Theatre (2)
Time Is On Our Side (2)
Independence Foundation Award for Outstanding New Play
Virginia Brown Martin Philadelphia Award

11th Hour Theatre Company (1)
See What I Wanna See (1)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

Azuka Theatre (1)
June and Steve Wolfson Award for an Evolving Theatre Company

Bristol Riverside Theatre (1)
Man of La Mancha (1)
Earl Girls Award for Outstanding Lighting Design

Inis Nua Theatre Company (1)
The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning (1)
Outstanding Ensemble in a Play

Philadelphia Artists’ Collective (1)
He Who Gets Slapped (1)
Outstanding Original Music

Quintessence Theatre Group (1)
Happy Days (1)
Charlotte Cushman Award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play

The Wilma Theater (1)
An Octoroon (1)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play

This year's Barrymore Award nominees and recipients 

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