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The Nominees — Helen and Morris Zoren Awards 2014-2015

untitled (117)Paring a list of hundreds to a mere, but significant, five is arduous. Even for someone who is the sole judge of whom gets selected to receive the ultimate recognition for a job brilliantly done is his or her craft.

So much goes into choosing nominees. Sentimentality is the first to be thrown by the wayside. Standards have to supersede heart’s content even though the standard are subjective.

Other prejudices, such as not liking a certain role or regarding a performance as an exception, must also be discarded. Each production or performance must be considered for its individual merit. As if it exists in a vacuum that admits no other information.

Then, there’s determining a role or play’s degree of difficulty. Can “Hamlet” be weighed in any conceivable way against “Xanadu?” Does the worthwhile nature of a piece outweigh an inferior production of it? Does a middle-of-the road work benefit from a staging that makes the most of what is provided?

All of these questions are considered as choices are made. The point of bestowing this 47th annual Helen and Morris Zoren Award for World Theater goes way beyond my penchant for ranking productions and making lists. It is to single out and honor the people, who after 200 or more productions, stand out as the best encountered in a specific theater year.

Because that’s what being a nominee for the Helen and Morris Zoren Award means. Out of a welter of theatrical experiences, 80 percent of them worth every hour spent in the dark watching art being lovingly presented, these productions and these performances are thought to be the best honed. They will certainly be among the most memorable.

In preparing to give awards, which I always refer to as being “received” or “earned” rather than “won,” I purposely separate all who qualify to be considered for nomination and publish their names in a list to show the wealth, variety, and quality of theater and to illustrate how difficult is it to nominate a final quintet. How much, after, separates the sixth person on the list from the fifth who goes on to nomination? Since more than a 100 performances in each category have something to recommend them, why not let the qualifiers’ list suffice?

Because one must discern and choose. In a qualifiers’ list, nascent talent like that shown by Michael Kiliany, Christopher Infantino, Steven Burke, or Luke Brahdt can be acknowledged. Up-and-comers like Andrew Carroll, Trevor William Fayle, and Brandon Pierce can be given some due. Careers about to be launched like those of Mitchell Bloom. John K. Baxter, and Meghan Winch can be encouraged. Actors in late stages of training like Rebecca Jane Cureton, Brock D. Vickers, and Isabella Fehlandt can be given a firm, approving pat on the back. Performers like Robb Hutter, Dante Zappala, John Cannon, and George Hartpence who have parallel lives in other walks of life can be congratulated for excellence. Children, like Lexi Gwynn, JD Triolo, and Xander Dake can have their professionalism noted.

Letting performers like those cited know that someone, no matter whom, is watching and appreciating and looking forward to what happens next is of importance. Isolating the finest efforts and bringing them to light via nomination is also critical. It’s a method of congratulation and an act of gratitude for pleasure, artistry, and craft that serves as a lesson for what theater can do and why it matters.

Nominees will be listed by category. On Friday, July 10, one person or production from each category will be singled out as the recipient of the Helen and Morris Zoren Award for World Theater, joining a group that begins with Jose Ferrer (“Man of La Mancha”), Carol Lawrence (“Funny Girl”), Tony Martinez (“Man of La Mancha”), and Anne Francine (“Mame”) in 1969. At the same time, the top 30 placeholders on each list will be noted.

The nominees for the Helen and Morris Zoren Awards for World Theater are:

BEST PRODUCTION

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS by Craig Lucas, George Gershwin, and Ira Gershwin, Palace Theatre, Broadway, NYC

JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK by Sean O’Casey, The Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY by Philip Barry, The Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

THE RAPE OF LUCRECE by William Shakespeare, Philadelphia Artist’s Collective, Philadelphia, Pa.

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? By Edward Albee, Theatre Exile, Philadelphia, Pa.

 

 

BEST ACTOR

MICHAEL CERVERIS, Fun Home, Public Theatre, Circle-in-the-Square, NYC

BEN DIBBLE, Herringbone, Flashpoint Theatre; Doubt: A Parable, Lantern Theater Philadelphia, Pa.

ROBERT FAIRCHILD, An American in Paris, Palace Theatre, NYC

DAN HODGE, The Rape of Lucrece, Philadelphia Artists’ Collective, Philadelphia, Pa.

MATTEO SCAMMELL, The Hairy Ape, Ego-Po Theatre,; Beauty and the Beast, Arden Theatre, Philadelphia, Pa.

 

 

BEST ACTRESS

KRISTIN CHENOWETH, On the Twentieth Century, Roundabout, American Airlines Theatre, NYC

MARY HANEY, Juno and The Paycock, The Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

ROSEMARY HARRIS, Indian Ink, Roundabout, Laura Pels Theatre, NYC

ZAINAB JAH, Hamlet, Wilma Theater, Philadelphia, Pa.

MOYA O’CONNELL, The Philadelphia Story; The Philanderer, The Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

 

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

STANLEY BAHOREK, Baskerville, McCarter Theatre, Princeton, N.J.

JAKE BLOUCH, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Theatre Exile, Philadelphia, Pa.; Unnecessary Farce, Act II Playhouse, Ambler, Pa.

JAY ARMSTRONG JOHNSON, On the Town, Barrington Playhouse, Pittsfileld, Mass,; Lyric Theatre, NYC

BRAD OSCAR, Something Rotten!, St. James Theatre, NYC

MAX von ESSEN, An American in Paris, Palace Theatre, NYC

 

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

LINDSAY DUNCAN, A Delicate Balance, John Golden Theatre, NYC

ROMOLA GARAI, Indian Ink, Roundabout, Laura Pels Theatre, NYC

KATE HENNIG, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur; When We Are Married, The Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

DEIRDRE MADIGAN, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Bucks County Playhouse, New Hope, Pa.

JILL PAICE, An American in Paris, Roundabout, Laura Pels, Palace Theatre, NYC

 

 

BEST DIRECTOR

JOE CANUSO, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Theatre Exile, Philadelphia, Pa.

DENNIS GARNHUM, The Philadelphia Story, The Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

JACKIE MAXWELL, Juno and the Paycock, The Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

JOHN RANDO, On the Town, Barrington Playhouse, Pittsfield, Mass.; Lyric Theatre, NYC

CHRISTOPHER WHEELDON, An American in Paris, Palace Theatre, NYC

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