Surprise and gratitude ruled the 17th Barrymore Awards on Monday, October 3 at the Walnut Street Theatre. Presented by the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, the black-tie ceremony, directed by Jay Wahl and hosted by 6ABC's Rick Williams, celebrated the work of local theatre artists as well as the vibrancy of the region's theatrical offerings with 27 awards.
Six students from South Philadelphia High School and five professional actors opened the ceremony with an excerpt from We Write South Philly, a play that was the product of three semester-long residencies in which more than 50 students studied acting and playwriting while examining the various layers of identity that make up the high school's past and present. Following the performance, the first award of the evening, the Excellence in Theatre Education and Community Service Award, went to South Philadelphia High School Principal Otis D. Hackney, III. Hackney was honored for his collaboration with teaching artists from The Wilma Theater, 1812 Productions and Philadelphia Young Playwrights to create, produce and perform this original piece of theater.
Additional highlights from the evening included the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award which was given to Harry Dietzler, Founder and Executive Director of Upper Darby Summer Stage; and Terrence McNally received the Distinguished Artist Award, a new honor recognizing theatre artists of national and international renown who choose to bring their talents to Philadelphia. James Ijames was awarded the coveted F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist, which comes with a $10,000 cash prize. Love and Communication earned Passage Theatre a $25,000 cash prize with the Brown Martin Philadelphia Award.
The Wilma Theatre's production of In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Plan was the evening's big winner, earning eight awards including Outstanding Overall Production of a Play, Outstanding Ensemble in a Play, Outstanding Direction of a Play for Blanka Zizka, Outstanding Set Design for Alexis Distler, Outstanding Lighting Design for Thom Weaver, Outstanding Costume Design for Oana Botez-Ban, Outstanding Sound Design and Original Music for Christopher Colucci, and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play for Krista Apple.
Theatre Horizon received multiple awards for its production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, including Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical, Outstanding Direction of a Musical for Matthew Decker, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical for Michael Doherty, and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical for Rachel Camp.
The Arden Theatre Company also took home multiple awards: The Flea and the Professor won Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical, and Rob McClure received Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play for his performance; Outstanding New Play went to Michael Hollinger for Ghost-Writer; and James Ijames received Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play for his performance in Superior Donuts.
Walnut Street Theatre captured two awards for Miss Saigon (Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical for Melinda Chua) and My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra (Outstanding Music Direction for Alex Bechtel).
Dan Hodge's performance in Around the World in 80 Days earned him the Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play award for Delaware Theatre Company; Anna Deavere Smith won the Charlotte Cushman Award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play for her performance in the Philadelphia Theatre Company's Let Me Down Easy; and Waldo Warshaw and Aaron Cromie received the Outstanding Choreography/Movement award for Theatre Exile's The Lieutenant of Inishmore.