"It Was a Difficult Choice, But..."

The Austin Critics Table named its tops in the arts for 2014

Madge Darlington of the Rude Mechanicals toasts the crowd in fitting Critics Table style during the company's induction into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame
Madge Darlington of the Rude Mechanicals toasts the crowd in fitting Critics Table style during the company's induction into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame (Photo by John Anderson)

The phrase became so common as arts writer after arts writer tried to explain how deserving all the nominees were before naming the winner in that category's Austin Critics Table award that it became the drinking game for the night: Whenever you hear a critic say, "It was a difficult choice, but...," take a drink.

Of course, the loose and jokey nature of the Austin Critics Table Awards ceremony has been a part of the proceedings from the start 22 years ago, as has the festive imbibing of adult beverages. Indeed, that happy tippling that takes place with this informal affiliation of arts writers is so deeply ingrained in its traditions that it was officially incorporated into the new Austin Critics Table logo: the word "Austin" in script atop "Critics Table" in a sans serif font, all caps, atop the word "Awards" in the same font, but with the middle "A" upside-down and a green olive on a pick resting in it just above the crossbar. (Thanks, WyattBrand!)

Between all the explanations and the toasting, though – not to mention some fine musical commentary by designated Paul Shaffer of the evening Justin Sherburn on the piano – the critics managed to hand out awards in 42 categories. Receiving the big love from the Table this year were Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company's The Undoing of Nonet and the Zach Theatre production of Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play, taking home four awards apiece. That was followed by Trouble Puppet Theatre's The Crapstall Street Boys, which earned three awards in the Design category. Another 10 theatre and dance productions were honored with a pair of awards each.

For the first time ever, the inductees into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame were all arts collectives. Bringing this esteemed body to 110 honorees were: Big Medium, Blue Genie Art Industries, and the Rude Mechanicals.

Taking part in the Critics Table award process this year were the Austin American-Statesman's Cate Blouke (theatre), Claire Canavan (theatre), Luke Quinton (classical music/visual arts), and Jeanne Claire van Ryzin (arts), and the Chronicle's Elizabeth Cobbe (theatre), Caitlin Greenwood (visual arts), Seth Orion Schwaiger (visual arts), Jonelle Seitz (dance), Stacy Alexander Smith (theatre), Natalie Zeldin (classical music), and Robert Faires (arts).


Production, Drama

Fat Pig, Theatre En Bloc

Production, Comedy

der Bestrafte Brudermord, The Hidden Room Theatre

Production, Musical

Little Shop of Horrors, Zilker Theatre Productions


Sarah Rasmussen, In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play

Acting in a Leading Role

Jill Blackwood, In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play

Emily Erington, Gidion's Knot

Ryan Hamilton, Fat Pig

Jason Liebrecht, The Lieutenant of Inishmore/Fixing King John

Jeff Mills, Three, or The Sound of the Great Existential Nothingness

Acting in a Supporting Role

Andrew Cannata, Les Misérables/Assassins

Ryan Crowder, Red

Amy Downing, In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play

Traci Lee, Les Misérables

Tiffany Mann, One Night With Janis Joplin

Ensemble Performance

Fixing King John, Rude Mechanicals

Music Direction

Greg Bolin, Anything Goes


Cassie Abate, Anything Goes

David Mark Cohen New Play Award

Three, or The Sound of the Great Existential Nothingness, Timothy Braun

Touring Show, Theatre (tie)

Jomama Jones: Radiate!, Salvage Vanguard Theater

El Rumor del Incendio, Lagartijas Tiradas Al Sol/Fusebox Festival


Dance Concert

The Undoing of Nonet, Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company

Short Work

"Resonance," Ariel Dance Theatre/Heloise Gold


Kathy Dunn Hamrick, The Big Small/The Undoing of Nonet


Alyson Dolan, The Big Small/The Undoing of Nonet/The Bowie Project: A Rock & Roll Soundpainting/"Grit"

Rebecca Johnson, A Midsummer Night's Dream/Giselle


A'lante Flamenco, Prophecies


Scenic Design

Moria Sine Clinton, In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play

Costume Design

Judanna Lynn, The Nutcracker

Lighting Design

Stephen Pruitt, Gold Show/Rose Show/Heart/The Undoing of Nonet/The Crapstall Street Boys/PowerUP

Sound Design

K. Eliot Haynes, The Crapstall Street Boys

Media Design & Integration

K. Eliot Haynes and Chris Owen, The Crapstall Street Boys


Symphonic Performance

Puts: How Wild the Sea, UT Symphony Orchestra with Miró Quartet

Chamber Performance

Reich: Music for Pieces of Wood/Soper: In the Reign of Harad IV/Xenakis: Okho, line upon line percussion

Choral Performance

Mozart Requiem Undead, Texas Choral Consort/Convergence/Golden Hornet Project


Tosca, Austin Lyric Opera


Cameron Beauchamp, Mozart Requiem Undead

Kathryn Findlen, That the Night Come

Original Composition/Score

"Black-Eyed Suzy," Donald Grantham


Brian Lewis, McLean: Elements


line upon line percussion


Museum Exhibition

"Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt," Veronica Roberts, curator; Blanton Museum of Art

Solo Gallery Exhibition (tie)

""Jessica Mathews: Stepping Into Water," Red Space

"Wura-Natasha Ogunji: Your heart is clean," MASS Gallery

Group Gallery Exhibition

"Something Lost," Phil LaDeau, curator; Co-Lab Projects N Space

Work of Art: Independent or Public Project

Thirst, Women & Their Work, Beili Liu, Emily Little, Norma Yancey, Cassie Bergstrom, Lady Bird Lake

Work of Art: Installation

Common Crossings, Marianne Vitale, The Contemporary Austin, Laguna Gloria

Artist of the Year (tie)

Michael Sieben

Claude van Lingen

Gallery, Body of Work

Tiny Park Gallery


John Bustin Award for Conspicuous Versatility

Michael Stuart

W.H. “Deacon” Crain for Outstanding Student Work

Brittany Allyson, St. Edward’s University;

Annie Wallace, Texas State University

Dancing Through the Pain Award

Ellen Bartel, I Begin Where I Grieve

Unlimited Edition Award

Elvia Perrin and Cathy Savage, PrintAustin 2014

Bow Monde Award

Butler School of Music, hosting of the 2014 Menuhin Competition

Red Tape Purple Heart Award

The Thirst team

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Austin Critics Table Awards, In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play, The Undoing of Nonet, Zach Theatre, Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company, The CRapstall Street Boys, Trouble Puppet Theatre, Justin Sherburn

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