2006 B. Iden Payne Awards: Payne, Payne, who got the Payne?

When the Austin Circle of Theaters handed out its B. Iden Payne Awards for 2005-2006, it was 'American Fiesta' that, well, bowled over the rest of the nominees

<i>American Fiesta</i>
American Fiesta

On Monday, Oct. 30, when the Austin Circle of Theaters handed out its B. Iden Payne Awards honoring achievements in theatre for the 2005-2006 season, it was American Fiesta that, well, bowled over the rest of the nominees. Steven Tomlinson's artful exploration of political divisions, marriage, and collecting vintage dishware took five of the six awards for which it was nominated, including outstanding production of a comedy, director of a comedy for Christina Moore, set design for Christopher McCollum, and original script and lead actor in a comedy for Tomlinson. The acceptance speeches had a bittersweet tinge since the State Theatre, which mounted the show's premiere, has suspended operations and laid off its staff, including Artistic Director Michelle Polgar, following the flood in the space last June. But an upbeat note was sounded by Eugene Sepulveda, Tomlinson's partner, who informed the audience at the Zachary Scott Theatre Center that the playwright/performer wasn't present to accept the awards because he was in New York discussing a possible Big Apple run of the show in 2007. As for the season's other solo show with a gay character and political themes, it was also a good night; I Am My Own Wife, mounted by Zach Scott, was voted outstanding production of a drama and Dave Steakley was honored as director of a drama. Vortex Repertory Company's world premiere musical Vampyress won three awards: for Chad Salvata's original score and the performances of Betsy McCann and Melissa Vogt. Theatre at the J took home the prize for outstanding production of music theatre for its staging of the Allan Sherman revue Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!, and the show's five performers won the outstanding cast performance award. The only other show to receive more than one award was Zilker Theatre Productions' staging of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which was honored for Robin Lewis' choreography and Michael McKelvey's musical direction.

L.B. Deyo and Buzz Moran, masterminds of the Dionsysium, served as masters of ceremonies, mostly from a small sofa in a corner of the Kleberg Stage, where they sat and provided color commentary on the proceedings with much-appreciated wit. Among the night's highlights: the presentation of the annual Special Recognition Award for contributions to theatre to internationally renowned theatre historian Oscar G. Brockett, who was introduced by playwright Emily Cicchini in a smart, funny speech that explained why "Brockett Is God," and the first award for an improvisational theatre ensemble, given to the Frank Mills. But the most surprising and hilarious moment came when Payne Nominations Committee Chair Steven Fay gave a Standing Ovation certificate to Rubbery Repertory Company for its uncategorizable production Red Cans, which was accepted, sort of, by three of the show's "stars," i.e., performers stuffed in small plastic laundry hampers, with only their arms exposed. They scooted out from under the curtain and began wreaking havoc: overturning a chair, terrorizing host Shannon Grounds, and stealing one of Buzz Moran's shoes. In the midst of a ceremony, a burst of theatre! For more information, visit www.acotonline.org.

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