2008 B. Iden Payne Awards

Many honors and even more laughs

Jason Amato
Jason Amato (Courtesy of Tony Spielberg)
The 34th annual B. Iden Payne Awards ceremony, held Sunday, Oct. 26, wasn't the shortest ever, but it well may have been the funniest. Lowell Bartholomee, who produced this year's edition for the Austin Circle of Theaters, contributed a series of videos that had the tightly packed crowd in the Rollins Studio Theatre howling throughout (mostly at a pitiful pooch named Dirk, who stared forlornly at the camera as arch subtitles revealed his "thoughts" about everything from the local theatre scene to the national presidential race). An introduction by recent "Best of Austin" winners Lovey and Lovey proved again why this cosmopolitan comedy couple is as intoxicating as the booze they down in such staggering quantities. And people were kept in stitches by a surprise cameo from a certain governor of Alaska, gamely impersonated by presenter Barbara Chisholm (who's also a Chronicle contributor and this reporter's spouse). I can't recall that much laughter in 25 years of attending these celebrations.

Among the 35 awards given for outstanding theatrical work in the 2007-2008 season, three shows came out big winners: Tongue and Groove Theatre's production of The Red Balloon, which was voted Outstanding Production of a Play for Youth and honored for Mark Stewart's performance, Arthur Adair's set design, Justin Sherburn's score and music direction, and the animation by Leah Sharpe; Zach Theatre's Porgy and Bess, which was recognized for Robin Lewis' choreography, Derek Whitener's costumes, and the performances by Marva Hicks, Cedric Neal, and Janis Stinson; and Vortex Repertory Company's Troades: The Legend of the Women of Troy, which took home the prize for Outstanding Production of Music Theatre and was honored for Bonnie Cullum's direction, the ensemble performance of its seven-woman chorus, and the lighting by this year's recipient of ACoT's Special Recognition Award, Jason Amato.

The accomplished designer, who was honored for his exceptional contributions to Austin theatre, gave a deeply felt acceptance speech, pausing repeatedly to wipe tears away. Adding to the stirring quality of the moment was the fact that the award was presented to him by Vortex Artistic Director Bonnie Cullum and Zach Theatre Artistic Director Dave Steakley. Seeing these two artistic leaders, who do very different kinds of work at very different kinds of theatres, stand side by side and show appreciation not only for their beloved colleague but for each other's work was a rare pleasure, reaffirming the sense of community that prompted the founding of these awards. It sent a powerful signal that, after all this time, we're all still in this together.

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Production of a Play for Youth

The Red Balloon, Tongue and Groove Theatre


Andreá S. Smith, Wiley and the Hairy Man


Mark Stewart, The Red Balloon


Kristin Bennett, Wiley and the Hairy Man


Production of Music Theatre

Troades: The Legend of the Women of Troy, Vortex Repertory Company


Bonnie Cullum, Troades

Lead Actor

Cedric Neal, Porgy and Bess

Lead Actress

Marva Hicks, Porgy and Bess

Featured Actor

James La Rosa, Altar Boyz

Featured Actress

Janis Stinson, Porgy and Bess


Production of a Comedy

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, Hyde Park Theatre


Ken Webster, Dog Sees God

Lead Actor

Matthew Radford, Much Ado About Nothing

Lead Actress

Katherine Catmull, Happy Days

Featured Actor

Ben Wolfe, Featuring Loretta

Featured Actress

Bernadette Nason, Blithe Spirit


Production of a Drama

Doubt, Zach Theatre


Shawn Sides, The Method Gun

Lead Actor

David Stahl, Inherit the Wind

Lead Actress

Kathleen Fletcher, Suddenly Last Summer

Featured Actor

Tyler Jones, Death of a Salesman

Featured Actress

Rachel McGinnis, The Laramie Project


Set Design

Arthur Adair, The Red Balloon

Lighting Design

Jason Amato, Troades

Sound Design

Jeffrey Alan Jones, Death and the King's Horseman

Costume Design

Derek Whitener, Porgy and Bess

Music Director

Justin Sherburn, The Red Balloon


Robin Lewis, Porgy and Bess

Original Script

Zell Miller III, Radio Silence

Original Score

Justin Sherburn, The Red Balloon


Cast Performance

The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Renaissance Austin Theatre/Vortex

Repertory Company

Ensemble Performance

Content Love Knowles, Betsy McCann, Kira Parra, Emerald Mystiek,

Ashley Edwards, Leigh Shaw, and Elizabeth Rast, Troades

Youth Performance

David Bologna,

Golly Gee Whiz!

Standing Ovation Certificate for Achievement in Animation

Leah Sharpe, The Red Balloon

The Rudy Kloptik Award for Outstanding Improvisational Theatre

Dave Buckman, the Frank Mills; Roy Janik, Parallelogramophonograph; Michael Jastroch, ColdTowne; Shana Merlin, Girls Girls Girls; Tami Nelson, ColdTowne; Asaf Ronen; Chris Trew, ColdTowne; and Justin York, ColdTowne.

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B. Iden Payne Awards, Austin Circle of Theaters, Lowell Bartholomee, Jason Amato, Bonnie Cullum, Dave Steakley, The Red Balloon, Porgy and Bess, Troades

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