And the winners are…….The 2017 Wilde Awards Winners
WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich.–EncoreMichigan.com’s annual Wilde Awards program, which rewards the best productions, actors, artists, designers, writers and theater technicians, was held at The Berman Center for Performing Arts here, and The barn Theatre’s 2016 production of Little Mermaid was the biggest single winner of the evening.
The Barn’s Mermaid took awards for Best Musical (director-Hans Friedrichs), Best Supporting actress in a Musical (Penelope Alex), Best Prop Design (Hans Friedrichs), Best Choreography (Jamey Grisham). Best Costume Design (Carly Heathcote). “We are really overwhelmed,” said Penelope Alex whose family has long owned and operated The Barn in Augusta, Michigan. “Sometimes we feel pretty isolated on the West side of the state, but we are very grateful to be so honored by our peers and by the critics and this community.”
The Williamston Theatre in Williamston, Michigan was also a big winner, taking Best Play for its production of 1984 (Tony Caselli-director) and best Actor in a Play, also for 1984 (David Wolber). Caselli and the theater received a second Best Play nomination for Joseph Zettelmaier’s Pulp. Williamston also garnered nominations in: the Rising Star category for young actor Desten Knox in its production of The Nerd; Lead Actress in a Play (Terry Heck) for Taking Shakespeare; Best Supporting Actor in a Play (Mark Colson) for Pulp; Best prop Design for The Nerd and Pulp (Michelle Raymond) and Best New Script for Summer Retreat (Annie Martin).
“That these two theaters that are well outside the Detroit market did so well with critics’ voting is testament to the breadth and depth of theater talent in the state of Michigan,” said David Kiley, editor and publisher of EncoreMichigan.com.
David DiChiera, the just retired artistic director of Michigan Opera Theatre, received two awards–The Publisher’s Award in recognition of a career of exceptional service to the Michigan arts community, as well as Best Opera of the 2016-17 season for Cyrano, an opera that he wrote with Bernard Uzon. “I can’t thing of anyone who has given more of themselves to the arts and theater community in Michigan than Dr. DiChiera,” said Kiley. In accepting his award, DiChiera implored the audience, primarily made up of actors, directors, producers, designers and writers, “Bring the young people along both as actors and lovers of theater.” Marian Pop won for Best Performance in an Opera for Cyrano.
Michigan Shakespeare Festival was the big winner among producers of The Bard, though it is by far not the only company performing Shakespeare in Michigan. MSF’s As You Like It, performed last summer won The Best of The Bard Award. Janet Haley won for Best Performance in a Shakespeare play for her role in As You Like It.
Michigan has a very strong collection of theaters performing musicals on a regular basis, including The Barn, Mason Street Warehouse, The Riverbank Theatre and Snug Theatre in Marine City; The Encore Musical Theatre, The Dio Dining and Entertainment, Tibbits Opera House, Hope Summer Repertory Theatre, Thunder Bay Theatre, as well as The Detroit Public Theatre now, which was nominated for best Musical for its production of Murder Ballad. Marlene Inman won Best Actress in a Musical for The Bridges of Madison County. Eric Parker won Best Actor in a Musical for The Full Monty at The Encore Musical Theatre.
The evening was full of entertainment. The acting troupe that performed Detroit: The Musical at Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck earlier this year performed scenes from the show, which was nominated for a Wilde Award for Best Original Production. Marlene Inman sang a selection from Bridges, which was performed at The Dio Dining and Entertainment in Pinkney. Jamey Grisham sang from The Little Mermaid. Amanda Rae Evans, a nominee for Best Actress in a Musical, sang from Little Women, which was performed at The Snug last season. Arielle Crosby sang a selection from nominated musical Murder Ballad. And the cast from Assassins, featuring Best Supporting Actor in a Musical winner David Moan, sang from that nominated show from The Encore Musical Theatre.
Sponsors for the Wilde Awards are The Berman Center for Performing Arts, Pride Source Media, publisher of Between The Lines; The Actors Equity Association, The Kalamazoo Arts Council, and The Nederlander Group, producer of Broadway in Detroit and Broadway in Grand Rapids.
A special award, in its second year, is The Rising Star Award–sponsored by the law firm of Kerr Russell with offices in Detroit, Troy and China–given to the best performance by an actor under the age of 18 in a professional production. This year’s winner is Jackson Abohasira, a young actor from West Bloomfield who portrayed a transgender teen in an updated interpretation of Pygmalion, called P.Y.G., performed at The Slipstream Initiative in Ferndale.
A series of special awards were given out, including the aforementioned Publisher’s Award and The Rising Star Award. The annual Critic’s Award was given to The Detroit Repertory Theatre for operating continuously for 60 years and championing work with themes of civil rights, diversity and inclusion. The Founders Award for Excellence, sponsored by Pride Source Media, was given to The Slipstream Initiative for adapting their modern version of The Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2016 when the setting, a modern-day gay bar, was suddenly deemed a problem after the shooting rampage at the Orlando gay club. The award was given for doing the show in the first place, but also for adapting it on the fly following the tragic killings.
The annual Council Cargle Award, given for length of service to the theater community was presented to actress Carmen Decker who performed in over 60 shows at the now closed Boarshead Theatre in Lansing, plus over 40 others. Decker appeared by way of audio recording to the crowd of nearly 300 at The Berman as she said her travel is limited by infirmity. Two special awards were given to EncoreMichigan.com writers. Martin Kohn, retired arts writer from The Detroit Free Press has retired from The Free Press, is now also retiring after writing for Encore for several years. “Marty has been supporting theaer with his writing for a half century, so we gave him the “Critic of The Half Century Award,” said Kiley. And Don ald Calamia, founding editor of EncoreMichigan, who retired from hosting the show after last year, was given the Oscar Wilde Award for service to the theater community. “We won’t give out the Oscar Wilde Award every year,” said Kiley. “We’ll reserve it for very special people.”
Kiley hosted the show with actor Roy Sexton. Sexton has performed with both community and professional theater across Southeast Michigan.
Photos: by Richard Rupp
1984, Tony Caselli, director; Williamston Theatre
The Little Mermaid, Hans Friedrichs, director; Barn Theatre
Cyrano, Bernard Uzan, director; Michigan Opera Theatre
Best of The Bard
As You Like It, Robert Kauzlaric, director; Michigan Shakespeare Festival
Best Original Production or One-Act
Macdeath, Shawn Handlon, director; Planet Ant Theatre
Best One-Person Show
5 Minute Ride, David Wolber, director; Matrix Theatre Company
Best Theater for Young Audiences
Go, Dog. Go!, Desha Crownover, director; Hope Summer Repertory Theatre
Best Touring Production
Fun Home, Sam Gold, director; Broadway in Detroit
Best Performance – One-Person Show
Luna Alexander, 5 Minute Ride; Matrix Theatre Company
Best Performance – Opera
Marian Pop, Cyrano; Michigan Opera Theatre
Best Performance – Original Production or One-Act
Lauren Bickers, Riot Grrrl 90s; Planet Ant Theatre
Phil Powers, Clutter; Theatre Nova
Best Performance – Rising Star
Jackson Abohasira, Y.G.; Slipstream Theatre Initiative
Best Performance – The Bard
Janet Haley, As You Like It; Michigan Shakespeare Festival
Best Performance – Theater for Young Audiences
Lance Spencer, The Cat in the Hat; Hope Summer Repertory Theatre
Best Performance, Lead Actor – Musical
Eric Parker, The Full Monty; The Encore Musical Theatre Company
Best Performance, Lead Actor – Play
David Wolber, 1984; Williamston Theatre
Best Performance, Lead Actress – Musical
Marlene Inman, The Bridges of Madison County; The Dio – Dining & Entertainment
Best Performance, Lead Actress – Play
Casaundra Freeman, Countdown to the Happy Day; Detroit Repertory Theatre
Best Performance, Supporting Actor – Musical
Patrick Hunter, Guys and Dolls; Barn Theatre
David Moan, Assassins; The Encore Musical Theatre Company
Best Performance, Supporting Actor – Play
Jonathan Davidson, Failure: A Love Story; Planet Ant Theatre
Best Performance, Supporting Actress – Musical
Penelope Alex, The Little Mermaid; Barn Theatre
Peter Prouty, Cheryl Turski and David Wolber, Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery; Meadow Brook Theatre
Jamey Grisham, The Little Mermaid; Barn Theatre
Best Design – Costumes
Carly Heathcote, The Little Mermaid; Barn Theatre
Best Design – Lights
Tyler Chinn, Assassins; The Encore Musical Theatre Company
Best Design – Props
Hans Friedrichs, The Little Mermaid; Barn Theatre
Best Design – Sets
Jeremy Barnett, The Great American Trailer Park Musical; Mason Street Warehouse
Best Design – Sound or Video
Michael McShane, Singin’ in the Rain, Barn Theatre
Best Music Direction
Tyler Driskill, Assassins; The Encore Musical Theatre Company
Jamie Reed, The Great American Trailer Park Musical; Mason Street Warehouse
Best New Script
Brian Cox, Clutter; Theatre Nova
Critics’ Choice Award:
Detroit Repertory Theatre
Founders Award for Excellence
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Slipstream Theatre Initiative
Jim Posante Community Pride Award
The Legend of Georgia McBride
The Ringwald Theatre
Council Cargle Award for Dedication to the Michigan Theatre Community
Founder & Artistic Director, Michigan Opera Theatre
Critic of the Half-Century Award
Martin F. Kohn
Oscar Wilde Award