Year's big Barrymore winners: Philadelphia Theatre Company and Wilma

Wilma's "Body Awareness" with Grace Gonglewski (left) and Mary Martello, who won best actress in a play. Theatre Alliance of Greater Phila., the awards manager, has dissolved.
Wilma's "Body Awareness" with Grace Gonglewski (left) and Mary Martello, who won best actress in a play. Theatre Alliance of Greater Phila., the awards manager, has dissolved. (ALEXANDER IZILIAEV)
Posted: September 26, 2012

The Philadelphia Theatre Company and Wilma Theater are the big winners of this year's Barrymore Awards, in what may be the final curtain for the theater honors that recognize work on the region's stages.

Together, the two companies on Broad Street's Avenue of the Arts won a dozen awards, covering more than half of the 22 performance and stagecraft categories, with four apiece for Body Awareness and The Scottsboro Boys. Pig Iron Theatre Company also won four for a single production, its 2011 Live Arts Festival Twelfth Night.

In all, eight companies in the region staged the 11 plays that won 2011-12 Barrymores for actors, directors, and stagecraft artists, which are being announced Tuesday through e-mail and the Internet by the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.

The alliance, which first presented the Barrymores in 1995 and has since overseen them, dissolved this year, and the future of the awards - the organization's most visible function - is unresolved. No Barrymores will be given for the current season.

The Philadelphia Theatre Company, which performs at its Suzanne Roberts Theatre, won four of its seven awards for The Scottsboro Boys, including best musical. After Scottsboro's run on Broadway, the company became the first regional theater to produce the show by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb, with a book by David Thompson - and did so with much of the team that originated it.

The edgy Scottsboro Boys tells the true story of nine African American boys arrested on a trumped-up rape charge in 1931 in Alabama. The entire cast won the Barrymore for ensemble acting in a musical, and Rodney Hicks and Forrest McClendon won for best musical actor and supporting actor, respectively.

The Wilma, which also produces at its own theater, won four of its five awards for Body Awareness, including best production of a play. Annie Baker's comic drama, about a lesbian couple, the contentious teenager-in-residence, and their angst over a houseguest who photographs naked women, also won the cast the Barrymore for best ensemble in a play. Anne Kauffman won for her direction, and Mary Martello for best actress in a play.

In spring, the Theatre Alliance declared that its work to strengthen the theater community in a region that now boasts 50-plus professional stages was complete and that it did not wish to compete for contributions with the theaters it served. The alliance board ceased operations, except for a one-person staff and a consultant to tie up loose ends.

But because Barrymore judging was in full swing, with 62 judges assessing about 150 plays and musicals, the board voted to complete the Barrymore process for last season.

In the theater community, conversations have begun about the possibilities of resurrecting the awards - a major enterprise that needs many willing and capable judges to assess myriad productions, plus an administration to oversee the process, from appointing judges to tabulating assessments to arranging for the awards.

Those awards had been medallions, but are replaced this year by certificates. Normally, the Barrymores would have been presented at a scripted celebration next month, followed by a party.

A group of artistic directors is arranging an Oct. 22 ceremony and reception called "Theatre Philadelphia: A Celebration" to present three additional awards, usually part of the Barrymore celebration: the $25,000 Brown Martin Philadelphia Award that recognizes a theater company for a play representing "the diverse individual, cultural, and spiritual differences among us"; the $10,000 F. Otto Haas Award to an emerging theater artist; and a posthumous lifetime-achievement award to Jiri Zizka, who cofounded Wilma Theater. The event will be at the Kimmel Center.

In the Barrymores announced Tuesday, Richard Poe won for leading actor in a play and David Gordon for set design, both for The Outgoing Tide at Philadelphia Theatre Company. The drama by Philadelphia playwright Bruce Graham, about the effects of Alzheimer's disease on a man and his family, is about to be done by Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington, which is taking its production Off-Broadway. That company produced Crowns last season, which won a Barrymore on Tuesday for Barbara D. Mills as outstanding actress in a musical.

The Barrymore for outstanding new play went to Jacqueline Goldfinger for Slip/Shot, about an accidental shooting and its racial fallout. It was produced by Flashpoint Theatre Company.

Genevieve Perrier won for best supporting actress in the Philadelphia Theatre Company's production of Reasons to Be Pretty. The Wilma's other Barrymore went to James Ijames, named best supporting actor for Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches, Tony Kushner's celebrated two-play work. The Wilma is currently presenting the second part.

Pig Iron Theatre Company's four-Barrymore Twelfth Night was an offbeat take on Shakespeare that featured actors on a skateboard ramp and highlighted the play's drunks, noblemen, and servants. The production won awards for Olivera Gajic's costumes, Brett Cassidy's choreography, and Rosie Langabeer's original music and her directing of it.

Joe Calarco won for directing the chamber musical Ordinary Days, staged by 11th Hour Theatre Company, and Manna Nichols was named best supporting actress in a musical, in Walnut Street Theatre's The King and I.

Thom Weaver won for his lighting design and Christopher Colucci and Daniel Perelstein for their sound design of Theatre Exile's Knives in Hens.


2012 Barrymore Winners

Best play Body Awareness, Wilma Theater  

Best musical The Scottsboro Boys, Philadelphia

Theatre Company  

Best new play Jacqueline Goldfinger, Slip/Shot, Flashpoint Theatre Company

Best director/play Anne Kauffman, Body Awareness, Wilma Theater

Best director/musical Joe Calarco, Ordinary Days,

11th Hour Theatre Company

Best actor/play Richard Poe, The Outgoing Tide, Philadelphia Theatre Company

Best actress/play Mary Martello, Body Awareness,

Wilma Theater

Best actor/musical Rodney Hicks, The Scottsboro Boys, Philadelphia Theatre Company

Best actress/musical Barbara D. Mills, Crowns,

Delaware Theatre Company

Best set design David Gordon, The Outgoing Tide, Philadelphia Theatre Company

Best lighting design Thom Weaver, Knives in Hens, Theatre Exile

Best costume design Olivera Gajic, Twelfth Night,

Pig Iron Theatre Company

Best sound design Christopher Colucci &

Daniel Perelstein, Knives in Hens, Theatre Exile

Best original music, Rosie Langabeer, Twelfth Night,

Pig Iron Theatre Company

Best music direction, Rosie Langabeer, Twelfth Night,

Pig Iron Theatre Company

Best choreography/movement Brett Cassidy, Twelfth Night, Pig Iron Theatre Company

Best supporting actor/play James Ijames,  

Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches, Wilma Theater

Best supporting actress/play Genevieve Perrier,  

Reasons to Be Pretty, Philadelphia Theatre Company

Best supporting actor/musical Forrest McClendon,  

The Scottsboro Boys, Philadelphia Theatre Company

Best supporting actress/musical Manna Nichols,  

The King and I, Walnut Street Theatre

Best ensemble/playBody Awareness, Wilma Theater

Best ensemble/musicalThe Scottsboro Boys,

Philadelphia Theatre Company


Contact Howard Shapiro

at 215-854-5727 or hshapiro@phillynews.com,

or follow on Twitter #philastage.

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