In addition to its best-production award, Invention was honored for its direction by Blanka Zizka; its leading male performance, by Martin Rayner; and its set and lighting designs, by Michael McGarty and Russell H. Champa, respectively.
The Philadelphia Theatre Company's Dinah Was: The Dinah Washington Musical was voted the season's best musical and won Barrymores for two performers: E. Faye Butler, named outstanding actress in a musical, and Carla J. Hargrove, who won as outstanding musical supporting actress.
Presented for the second consecutive year at the University of Pennsylvania's Irvine Auditorium, the awards were widely distributed among a dozen productions by eight companies. The Wilma, which also won a Barrymore for Joel Blum's supporting role in the musical The Tin Pan Alley Rag, tied with the Philadelphia Theatre Company for the most awards, six.
Randy Danson, who played an overbearing professor with ovarian cancer in PTC's production of Margaret Edson's Wit, was named best actress in a play. The company's production of Warren Leight's Side Man won as best ensemble production and also won a supporting-actor prize for Ian Merrill Peakes as the play's autobiographical narrator.
The other multiple award-winning theater was the Walnut Street, which was honored for Christopher Sutton's title performance in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story as well as the costume designs (by Theoni V. Aldredge and Colleen McMillan) and choreography (by Richard Stafford) for the musical La Cage aux Folles.
The prestigious F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Theatre Artist, which carries a $10,000 cash award, went to actor John Lumia, who has appeared in numerous area productions as well as his own solo project, Spin Cycle. Lumia was a finalist for last year's Haas award.
Michael Hollinger's Red Herring, a noir comedy about love and espionage, at the Arden Theatre Company, won the award for the season's best new play. In his remarks, Hollinger thanked the Arden's Terrence J. Nolen, who has staged the premieres of all his plays, and many people who provided "fine bits of advice, all of which were basically variations on 'Why don't you cut that?' "
Other Barrymore awardees were Ben Levit, for direction of a musical (the Prince Music Theater's The Hidden Sky); E. Ashley Izard, for supporting actress in a play (Lantern Theater's Beyond Therapy); Whit MacLaughlin, for sound design (InterAct Theatre's Drink Me); and Michael "Hawkeye" Herman, for original music (Venture Theatre's El Paso Blue).
The ceremonies at Irvine, the liveliest in several years, were hosted by members of the theater community and included excerpts from nominated musicals as well as slides from other nominated productions. The show was directed by Sheila Kutner and written, with considerable wit, by Jennifer Childs and Pete Pryor. Julianna Schauerman choreographed an opening number featuring backstage people from area theater companies.
The award for costume design was presented by two popular area actresses, 6-feet-plus Jilline Ringle and 5-feet-minus Jennifer Childs, each wearing an identical floor-length, low-cut dress. Special appearances to explain the voting process and thank the evening's sponsors were made by Tony Braithwaite, as "Professor Barrymore," and Andrea Reid as a Wagnerian soprano.
Acceptance speeches were generally brief and pointed. Among the more pithy was that of Izard, who accepted her supporting-actress Barrymore by noting that in theater, "you get to be nutty, zany and insane, and you get rewarded for it in a very positive way."
Original-music winner Herman, who flew here from Oregon for the ceremonies, said, "As a blues musician, it's particularly wonderful to be alive and receive an award. You usually have to be dead at least 10 years." The award was bittersweet, because financial difficulties forced Venture Theatre to suspend operations at the end of last season.
Rayner, honored for his work in The Invention of Love, accepted his prize by observing that "acting is such an ephemeral thing, it's nice to have something you can clutch that says you really are an actor."
InterAct Theatre Company's InterAction program, which uses theater as a tool for social change, won the $2,500 Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News Award for Excellence in Theatre Education and Community Service.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was given posthumously to Adele Magner, founder of the Philadelphia Young Playwrights Festival, who died of cancer in January. Established in 1984, the festival introduces students to playwriting and has their work produced by theater professionals.
Magner's husband, Alan, and their daughter, Jana, accepted the award. Presenting it, actress Bobbi Block said, "Throughout her life, she listened to the voices of young people and created an arena in which those voices could be heard."
In Magner's honor, the festival presented the first Adele Magner Memorial Award to the teacher-theater artist-student playwright team of Katherine Park, Robert Anu Hubbard and Angelita Ellison, whose collaboration at the Alexander Hamilton School exemplified the group's aims. It is to be an annual award.
The Barrymore Awards, named after the famous theatrical family with many ties to Philadelphia, are administered by the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, an umbrella organization of nonprofit companies. Nominees for all but two of the awards are selected by the combined vote of two panels: a rotating group of preliminary nominators, and a fixed panel of 18 judges. The winners are chosen by the judges alone.
Winners of the Haas award and the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News award are selected by committees of theater professionals.
Barrymore Award Winners
Overall Production of a Play The Invention of Love, Wilma Theater
Overall Production of a Musical Dinah Was: The Dinah Washington Musical, Philadelphia Theatre Company
Direction of a Play Blanka Zizka, The Invention of Love, Wilma Theater
Direction of a Musical Ben Levit, The Hidden Sky, Prince Music Theater
Leading Actor in a Play Martin Rayner, The Invention of Love, Wilma Theater
Leading Actress in a Play Randy Danson, Wit, Philadelphia Theatre Company
Leading Actor in a Musical Christopher Sutton, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Walnut Street Theatre
Leading Actress in a Musical E. Faye Butler, Dinah Was: The Dinah Washington Musical, Philadelphia Theatre Company
Supporting Actor in a Play Ian Merrill Peakes, Side Man, Philadelphia Theatre Company
Supporting Actress in a Play E. Ashley Izard, Beyond Therapy, Lantern Theater Company
Supporting Actor in a Musical Joel Blum, The Tin Pan Alley Rag, Wilma Theater
Supporting Actress in a Musical Carla J. Hargrove, Dinah Was: The Dinah Washington Musical, Philadelphia Theatre Company
Set Design Michael McGarty, The Invention of Love, Wilma Theater
Lighting Design Russell H. Champa, The Invention of Love, Wilma Theater
Costume Design Theoni V. Aldredge and Colleen McMillan, La Cage aux Folles, Walnut Street Theatre
Sound Design Whit MacLaughlin, Drink Me, InterAct Theatre Company
Choreography Richard Stafford, La Cage aux Folles, Walnut Street Theatre
Original Music Michael "Hawkeye" Herman, El Paso Blue, Venture Theatre
New Play Red Herring, Michael Hollinger, Arden Theatre Company
Ensemble Side Man, Philadelphia Theatre Company
The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News Award for Excellence in Theatre Education and Community Service InterAction, InterAct Theatre Company
F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist John Lumia
Lifetime Achievement Award Adele Magner, Philadelphia Young Playwrights Festival
Clifford A. Ridley's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org