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David Templeton, Alexa Chipman, Leslie McCauley, Harry Duke, Barry Willis.

Marquee Theater Journalists Association Honors Sonoma County Theatre Arts

Nov 24, 2017
by Harry Duke, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and American Theatre Critics Association

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Photo above: David Templeton, Alexa Chipman, Leslie McCauley, Harry Duke, Barry Willis

At last count, Sonoma County had over twenty active theatre companies, ranging from the nomadic Pegasus Theatre Company to the theatre departments of the two local institutions of higher learning. From Petaluma to Cloverdale, from Monte Rio to Sonoma, the options available for those interested in live theatre in this county are plentiful.

Two years ago, four Sonoma County-based theatre critics – including your author - gathered to discuss the possibility of celebrating the best of local theatre through an awards process. All are members of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, an organization that has for the past 41 years recognized excellence in theatre produced in the nine bay area counties with an annual awards ceremony. Theatre Bay Area, the largest regional theatre service organization in North America, started their own awards program four years ago, also for productions throughout the Bay Area.

While Sonoma County has made a respectable showing in these awards over the past few years – including two wins for Santa Rosa’s Left Edge Theatre at the recent TBA Awards - the local critics thought there was enough theatre produced in this county to warrant their own honors.

Thus was born the Marquee Theater Journalists Association and the MTJA Awards, named for the legendary Marquee Theatre of Santa Rosa where many local artists began their theatrical careers. Awards are given in fifteen categories that recognize outstanding work in Sonoma County productions that opened from September of the previous year to August of the current year. One major difference with the MTJA Awards is that the performance categories are non-gender specific. There are awards for outstanding lead performances and awards for outstanding supporting performances – all performers are considered for each award. The terms “actor” and “actress” are nowhere to be found on the Award certificates. The awards are separated by genre, with categories recognizing the differences between dramas, comedies, and musicals.

Nominations for the 2nd Annual MTJA Awards were announced in mid-September with the awards ceremony scheduled for mid-October. Wellllll, that didn’t happen but recently the Sonoma County theatre community had the opportunity to gather at the confluence Taproom & Lounge in Santa Rosa and celebrate the past year in theatre. Collectively, the members of the Association attended 63 productions and nominated 75 theatre artists and companies. Here are the nominees and recipients of this year’s MTJA Awards:

Outstanding Musical Production
Awardee: In the Heights
1776 
(Larry Williams, director; Lucas Sherman, musical director; Spreckels Theatre Company)
Gypsy(Michael Ross, director; John Partridge, musical director; Sonoma Arts Live)
In the Heights
(John Shillington, director; Janis Wilson, musical director; SRJC)
In the Mood
(David Lear, director; Justin Pyne, musical director; Shakespeare in the Cannery)
Titanic
(Gene Abravaya, director; Tina Lloyd Meals, musical director; Spreckels Theatre Company)

Outstanding Comedy Production
Awardee: Becky’s New Car
Baskerville
(David L. Yen, director; Spreckels Theatre Company)
Becky’s New Car (Carl Jordan, director; Sonoma Arts Live)
From Both Hips (John Craven, director; Main Stage West)
A Masterpiece of Comic… Timing (Craig Miller, director; 6th Street Playhouse)
Zombie Town (Nick Sholley, director; Left Edge Theater)

Outstanding Drama Production
Awardee: Visiting Mr. Green
The Birds
(Beth Craven, director; Main Stage West)
Dancing at Lughnasa (Molly Noble, director; Main Stage West)
Race (Carl Jordan, director; Left Edge Theater)
Visiting Mr. Green (David L. Yen, director; 6th Street Playhouse)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (David Lear, director; Main Stage West)

Outstanding Lead Performance in a Musical
Awardee: Daniela Innocenti-Beem.
Jeff Coté (1776, Spreckels Theatre Company)
Shawna Eiermann (Disney’s Musical Tarzan, Spreckels Theatre Company)
Daniela Innocenti-Beem (Gypsy, Sonoma Arts Live)
Joseph Miranda (In the Heights, SRJC)
Ellen Toscano (Evita, Sonoma Arts Live)

Outstanding Lead Performance in a Comedy
Awardee: Melissa Claire
Melissa Claire
(Becky’s New Car, Sonoma Arts Live)
Mary Gannon Graham (The Sugar Bean Sisters, Spreckels Theatre Company)
Chris Ginesi (From Both Hips, Main Stage West)
Chris Schloemp(A Masterpiece of Comic… Timing, 6th Street Playhouse)
Chris Schloemp(Baskerville, Spreckels Theatre Company)

Outstanding Lead Performance in a Drama
Awardee: Alan Kaplan
Liz Jahren
(The Birds, Main Stage West)
Alan Kaplan (Visiting Mr. Green, 6th Street Playhouse)
Dorian Lockett (Race, Left Edge Theater)
Ivy Miller (Dancing at Lughnasa, Main Stage West)
Illana Niernberger (Capacity, Main Stage West)

Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Musical
Awardee: Erik Weiss
Robert Bauer
(The Diary of Anne Frank, Raven Players)
Kevin Kieta (Visiting Mr. Green, 6th Street Playhouse)
Rose Roberts (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Main Stage West)
Nick Sholley (The Birds, Main Stage West)
Joe Winkler (The Big Meal, Left Edge Theater)

Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Comedy
Awardee: Heather Gordon
Heather Gordon
(The Money Shot, Left Edge Theater)
Rose Roberts (A Masterpiece of Comic… Timing, 6th Street Playhouse)
Chad Yarish (The Odd Couple, Cinnabar Theater)
Zane Walters (Baskerville, Spreckels Theatre Company)
Matt Witthaus (Becky’s New Car, Sonoma Arts Live)

Outstanding Poster/Program Design
Awardee: Pagliacci
The Children’s Hour
(Ty Donaldson, 6th Street Playhouse)
The Clean House (Richard Sheppard, Raven Players)
Pagliacci (Victoria Von Thal, Cinnabar Theater)
Sweeney Todd (Richard Sheppard, Raven Players)
Zombie Town (Argo Thompson, Left Edge Theater)

Outstanding Set Design
Awardee: Peter Crompton  
Elizabeth Bazzano/ Eddy Hansen
(The Sugar Bean Sisters, Spreckels Theatre Company)
Elizabeth Bazzano/ Eddy Hansen (Titanic, Spreckels Theatre Company)
Peter Crompton (In the Heights, SRJC)
Bruce Lackovic (Becky’s New Car, Sonoma Arts Live)
Michael Mingola (The Diary of Anne Frank, Raven Players)

Outstanding Costumes
Awardee: Maci Cae Hosler
Michael RJ Campbell
(The Threepenny Opera, 6th Street Playhouse)
Pamela Enz (1776, Spreckels Theatre Company)
Pamela Enz(Titanic, Spreckels Theatre Company)
Maci Cae Hosler(Fairyworlds!, 6th Street Playhouse)
Pamela Johnson (The Sugar Bean Sisters, Spreckels Theatre Company)

Outstanding Light Design
Awardee: Eddy Hansen
April George
(Fairyworlds!, 6th Street Playhouse)
Yave Guzman (Agnes of God, Cloverdale Performing Arts Center)
Eddy Hansen (The Sugar Bean Sisters, Spreckels Theatre Company)
Vincent Mothersbaugh (In the Heights, SRJC)
Missy Weaver (The Birds, Main Stage West)

Outstanding Sound Design
Awardee: Doug Faxon
Doug Faxon
(The Birds, Main Stage West)
Jessica Johnson (The Sugar Bean Sisters, Spreckels Theatre Company)
Jessica Johnson (Titanic, Spreckels Theatre Company)
Tom Luekens (The Diary of Anne Frank, Raven Players)
Craig Miller (Visiting Mr. Green, 6th Street Playhouse)

Outstanding Choreography
Awardees: Sam Browne, Casandra Hillman, Anakarina Swanson
Alia Beeton
(In the Mood, Shakespeare in the Cannery)
Sam Browne, Casandra Hillman, Anakarina Swanson (In the Heights, SRJC)
Sandi Lang (Anything Goes, Raven Players)
Marilyn Murray, Melinda Murray (George M!, 6th Street Playhouse)
Michella Snider (Disney’s Musical Tarzan, Spreckels Theatre Company)

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