Year of the Booster

The 2015-16 Austin Critics Table Awards

For anyone feeling down about the state of our city, the 24th edition of the Austin Critics Table Awards would have been a tonic. Even as attendees bemoaned the loss of arts venues and mourned lost colleagues, honorees took time at the mic to talk about how they came to Austin and found it a welcoming place, open to new ideas and to collaboration.

Acting in a Supporting Role winner Amber Quick, accepting the award for her performance in A Streetcar Named Desire (Photo by John Anderson)

Jill Schroeder of grayDUCK Gallery was almost overcome with emotion in accepting the Gallery, Body of Work award, but on collecting herself, the transplanted Minnesotan cracked up the crowd by recalling how strange this place felt upon arriving here "from up north, where people didn't talk to each other in grocery checkout lines," they just "did their own shit." Very soon, though, she came to appreciate the friendliness and support that came with all that chat, all over the city but especially in the arts community. Nick Mayo, director of She Loves Me, the Mary Moody Northen Theatre production that was one of two shows honored this year with the outstanding musical prize, echoed Schroeder in acknowledging the warmth and support he's received as a newcomer to the city and how it's fueled his work with the students at St. Edward's University. Even the inductees into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame – Ballet Austin's Stephen Mills and Cookie Ruiz and the Austin Symphony Orchestra's Peter Bay, giving perhaps the most eloquent speeches ever made by new Hall of Famers – told tales of their early impressions of the city and how its collaborative character has impressed itself on their cultural careers.

Ballet Austin Executive Director Cookie Ruiz, being inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame (Photo by John Anderson)

Turnout for the ceremony was lighter than usual; the Cap City Comedy Club showroom was less than half full, perhaps owing to the fact that the ceremony was held before Memorial Day for the first time in 15 years. The number of winners present to accept their awards was similarly reduced, with so many people who came to the stage announcing that they were not the person just named as the winner that by the time Amber Quick showed up to collect her award for performance as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, she got a laugh by saying, "I am Amber Quick."

But the relatively small attendance did little to diminish the effusiveness of the winners or the playful tone of the ceremony as this informal affiliation of arts writers from the Austin American-Statesman and Austin Chronicle handed out honors in 40 areas. Three theatre productions took home three awards apiece: Capital T Theatre's dark cockfighting comedy Year of the Rooster, Mary Moody Northen Theatre’s exxx-cellent apocalyptic consideration of The Simpsons, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, and Vortex Repertory Company’s time-tossed drama of the past's impact on the present, Terminus.

Eight more works were recognized for notable artistic achievements in two areas: Austin Playhouse’s Disgraced, Austin Shake­speare’s Medea, Butler Opera Center’s At the Statue of Venus/Three Decembers, Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company’s True Story, Hyde Park Theatre’s The Night Alive, Ebony Stewart and the Vortex’s Hunger, Tapestry Dance Company’s In Your Shoes, and Zach Theatre’s Sophisticated Ladies. Below is the complete list of winners.


Production, Drama
Terminus, Vortex Repertory Company

Production, Comedy
Year of the Rooster, Capital T Theatre

Production, Musical (tie)
She Loves Me, Mary Moody Northen Theatre
Tortoise & Hare, Summer Stock Austin

Nick Mayo, director of the award-winning musical production She Loves Me, speaking of behalf of three of that show's actors being honored with the Deacon Crain Award for Outstanding Student Work (Photo by John Anderson)

David Long, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play

Acting in a Leading Role
Franchelle Dorn, Medea
Jason Liebrecht, Year of the Rooster
Jennifer Underwood, Terminus
Ben Wolfe, Disgraced

Acting in a Supporting Role
Crystal Bird Caviel, Disgraced
Tom Green, The Night Alive
Afra Hines, Sophisticated Ladies
Amber Quick, A Streetcar Named Desire
Michael Stuart, The Norwegians

Ensemble Performance
Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, Mary Moody Northen Theatre

Music Direction
Austin Haller, Sunday in the Park With George

Natasha Davison, The Wild Party

David Mark Cohen New Play Award (tie)
Hunger, Ebony Stewart
Tender Rough Rough Tender, Sarah Saltwick


Dance Concert
True Story, Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company

Short Work
“Motherwell Amor,” Erick Hawkins Dance Company/Shay Ishii Dance Company

Charles O. Anderson/Kathy Dunn Hamrick/Lisa Nicks/Kate Warren, More Than One Complication

Michael Love, In Your Shoes
D. Poet Powell, True Story
Ashley Lynn Sherman, “Desire”/Hamlet

Matt Shields & Tony Merriwether, Sophisticated Ladies

Tapestry Dance Company, In Your Shoes


Scenic Design
David Molina-Garza, The Diary of Anne Frank

Costume Design
Jenny McNee & Jennifer Rose Davis, The History of King Lear

Lighting Design
Patrick Anthony, Year of the Rooster/Hunger/Terminus/Medea/Marie Antoinette

Sound Design
Robert S. Fisher, The Night Alive/Gusev/The Realistic Joneses

Video/Projection Design
Eliot Gray Fisher, The Warriors: A Love Story

Eliot Gray Fisher, accepting the Video/Projection Design award for his work on Arcos Dance's The Warriors: A Love Story (Photo by John Anderson)


Symphonic Performance
Compassion, Austin Symphony Orchestra with Lior

Chamber Performance
Traffic Jam, Steve Parker

Choral Performance
Considering Matthew Shepard, Conspirare

At the Statue of Venus/Three Decembers, Butler Opera Center

Karen Slack, Aida
Julia Taylor, Three Decembers

Original Composition/Score
In the Face of Trouble, Graham Reynolds

Keith Womer, Start the New Year With Bach

La Follia


Museum Exhibition
“Strange Pilgrims,” The Contemporary Austin

Solo Gallery Exhibition (tie)
“Seth Orion Schwaiger: Complex I,” Pump Project
“Jade Walker: Four Cornered,” Galleries I & II, Texas State University

Group Gallery Exhibition
“The Contemporary Print,” Print Austin

Work of Art: Independent or Public Project
Field Constructs Design Competition, Rachel Adams, Catherine Gavin, and Igor Siddiqui

Work of Art: Installation
Hurly Burly, Orly Genger, Waller Creek Conservancy/The Contemporary Austin

Gallery, Body of Work
grayDUCK Gallery


John Bustin Award for Conspicuous Versatility
Marc Pouhé

W.H. "Deacon" Crain Award for Outstanding Student Work
Cheyenne Barton, St. Edward's University
Matt Buzonas, St. Edward's University
Maureen Fenninger, St. Edward's University

Outside the Box (and String) Award
Physical Plant and Parallelogramophonograph, for their pioneering collaboration in improvisational drama

Site for Sore Eyes Award
Illusory Impressions and Lumen, for their invigorating collaborations of dance and music in site-specific performance

Best Face on It Award
Tara Cooper, for her exquisite masks of the Simpsons characters in Mr. Burns, a post-electric play

Taking part in the Critics Table award process this year were the Austin American-Statesman's Andrew J. Friedenthal (theatre), Claire Canavan (theatre), Luke Quinton (classical music/visual arts), Claire Spera (dance), and Jeanne Claire van Ryzin (arts), and the Chronicle's H.C. Arnold (visual arts), Elizabeth Cobbe (theatre), Jonelle Seitz (dance), Shanon Weaver (theatre), and Robert Faires (arts).

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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Austin Critics Table Awards, Austin Critics Table, Peter Bay, Stephen Mills, Cookie Ruiz, Austin Symphony, Ballet Austin, Jill Schroeder, grayDUCK Gallery, Nick Mayo, St. Edward's University, Amber Quick

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