Kirkwood Theatre Guild’s comedy “Calendar Girls” and Hawthorne Players’ drama “A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” swept the eighth annual Theatre Mask Awards on April 15.
Through the nonprofit organization Arts For Life, the TMAs have honored drama and comedy plays since 2015. This year recognized community theatre achievements in 2022.
TMA Chairperson Melissa Boyer said 25 shows were eligible, produced by 11 community theatres.
“This has been a very busy year and the quality of shows this year couldn’t have been better,” Boyer said.
AFL President Mary McCreight said it was more shows than ever before and congratulated all involved for the hard work they did.
“Thank you to the theater groups pursuing their dreams…you do it to bring smiles to the audience and to cultivate appreciation for the arts,” she said.
“Calendar Girls” won 7 for Outstanding Production of a Comedy, Performance by an Ensemble Cast of a Large Production, Director of a Comedy Deanna Jent, Lead Actress in a Comedy Kay Martin Love as Annie, Supporting Actor in a Comedy Gerry Love as John, Supporting Actress in a Comedy Gabi Maul as Celia, and Costume Design Cherol Thibaut.
The play is based on the true story of 11 Women Institute members in a small village in England’s Yorkshire Dales who pose for an ‘alternative’ calendar to raise money for the Leukemia Research Fund. It was adapted from the 2003 film.
“A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” won 5, for Outstanding Production of a Drama, Lead Actor Dan Wolfe as Christopher, Director of a Drama Ken Clark, Set Design Ken Clark, and Lighting Design Eric Wennlund.
The drama, adapted from a novel by Mark Haddon as a play-within-a-play, involves many visual effects and projections. It’s a mystery around the neighbor’s dog’s death, which is being investigated by Christopher, who is autistic and a math prodigy.
Hawthorne Players in Florissant had received 18 nominations, with 10 for “A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” and 8 for “Picnic,” leading all St. Louis area-metro-east Illinois community theater groups.
The Kirkwood Theatre Guild had 15 TMA nods, with 11 for “Calendar Girls” and 4 for “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Jan Meyer, as Big Mama Politte, won Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role in the Tennessee Williams production.
Two performers from O’Fallon Theatre Works were recognized – Susan Wylie as Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role – Drama, for playing Constance Blackwood in “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” and Ben Ketcherside as Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role – Comedy for playing William Shakespeare in “Shakespeare in Love.”
Tim Kelly, as Col. Nathan Jessup in “A Few Good Men,” won Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role in Drama for the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves production.
Monroe Actors Stage Company won for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast of a Small Production for “Footlight Frenzy.”
In their heartfelt speeches, winners expressed gratitude for theater families and the bonds that are created during a show’s preparation and production.
“Storytelling builds community,” said director Deanna Jent, winner for “Calendar Girls.”
Director Ken Clark, winner for “A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” said the support that happens is the most special aspect.
“Relationships are the real reward,” he said.
The Hawthorne Players team paid tribute to posthumous nominee Natalee Damron, 29, who died three weeks after the show closed. She had suffered from a connective tissue disorder, Ehlers Danlos syndrome. Clark said Natalee had played her dream role, the teacher mentor Siobhan. He introduced her mother, Pamela, who was on hand for the ceremony.
Amanda McMichael was the master of ceremonies. She won the TMA in 2020 for Lead Actress in a Comedy, for Act Two Theatre’s “Plaza Suite,” which was performed in 2019. She was a 2023 nominee as Yvonne in “The Dinner Party” at Wentzville’s Connection Theatre Company. She is also a small business owner of Once Upon a Time in St. Charles’ historic business district.
She reminded everyone of the COVID-19 restrictions in 2020, the year she won, picking up her award in a parking lot “like a carpool lane.” She wanted to point out how far we have come to return to live theater.
A luncheon at Andre’s Banquet Center South in St. Louis was part of this year’s festivities. Presenters included past winners Caitlin Bromberger, Nancy Crouse, Jonathan Garland, Jackie Goodall, Brittany Kohl Hester, Grayson Jostes, Chris Lanham, Elle Lanham, Ken Lopinot, Mary McCreight, Julie Petraborg, and Shane Rudolph. Natalie Klick was the Trophy Assistant.
“I loved seeing everyone come together and laugh and catch up with each other,” Boyer said. “I want to commend Amanda McMichael for her well-paced, hilarious job as the emcee. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners of the Theatre Mask Awards. It was really fun!”
McCreight said the awards ceremony went off without a hitch last Saturday.
“As always, there was lots of friendly chatter among theatre groups and cheering for each other when winners were announced,” she said. “I am loving the camaraderie among the actors, directors, crews and family. Can’t wait to do it all over again next year.”
Participating AFL groups in the Theatre Mask Awards include Act Two Theatre, Clayton Community Theatre, Goshen Theatre Project, Hawthorne Players, Kirkwood Theatre Guild, KTK Productions, Looking Glass Playhouse, Monroe Actors Stage Company, O’Fallon Theatre Works, Theatre Guild of Webster Groves, and Wentzville Connection Community Theatre.
The TMAs were judged by 29 volunteers who traversed a 35-mile radius in the St. Louis metropolitan area and metro-east Illinois region to assess eligible productions.
David Wicks Jr. is the Theatre Recognition Guild chairman. Keaton Treece was the 2022 TMA secretary and Jadienne Davidson is the 2023 TMA secretary.
Nominations and awards are listed on the website, www.artsforlife.org.
Arts For Life is a local not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the underserved, and the community, with its goal of “Making a Dramatic Difference.”
AFL is dedicated to promoting public awareness of local community theatre, encouraging excellence in the arts, and acknowledging the incredible people who are a part of it.
More information is on the website about the 23rd Best Performance Awards on July 2 at 2 p.m. at the Florissant Performing Arts Center. The BPAs have honored musical theater in community and youth productions since 1999.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website, www.artsforlife.org
Cover photo of “Calendar Girls” by Dan Donovan
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.