Aurora Theatre’s “Les Miserables” and Horizon Theatre’s “Time Stands Still” were the expected big winners last night at the ninth annual Suzi Bass Awards ceremony at the Porter Sanford III Performing Arts Center.
Recognizing excellence in local theater, the Suzis handed out trophies in more than two-dozen categories, as well as a few special others. Just as in 2012, when “Clyde ‘n Bonnie: A Folktale” nearly swept the musical category, Aurora Theatre took home a number of awards — seven in all. “Les Miserables” won five awards, including Best Musical, Best Director of a Musical for Justin Anderson and Best Featured Actress in a Musical for Leslie Bellair, who tied in that category with Adrienne Reynolds for True Colors Theatre Company’s “Shakin’ the Rafters.”
The company also nabbed the Theatre for Youth Production for “Unnecessary Monsters” (written by actress/playwright Megan Hayes) and the Audience Award.
Anderson, who was also nominated for Best Director in a Play for “Angry Fags,” gave a shout out to those who had helped him early in his career. “I am so grateful for this community for opening their arms and allowing me to have a place at the artistic table over the last few years,” he said. “I want to thank those of you who were gracious enough to indulge or endure a series of emails from me inquiring about opportunities, for those kind enough to take me to coffee and talk shop, for those kind enough to continue to support me and encourage me to continue to pound the pavement and those who took a chance on me. From the bottom of this grad school dropout’s heart, thank you.”
Ann-Carol Pence, associate producer at Aurora, picked up her second consecutive award for music direction for “Les Miserables.”
“You cannot create great theater without chemistry; we as artists recognize it cannot be manufactured or faked, and we were fortunate to have the chemistry of (“Les Mis” stars) Bryant Smith and Kevin Harry,” she said.
“Time Stands Still,” Horizon Theatre’s drama about a photojournalist returning from Iraq after being injured by a bomb, took home the award for Best Play, while its lead actress, Carolyn Cook, collected her first Best Actress in a Play award in a competitive field. Twice a winner for her ensemble work, this is Cook’s first individual award after three previous nominations.
“I am very honored to be in that group of people,” Cook said of her fellow nominees. “I was just watching those pictures go by and remembering those shows and realizing what an amazing honor it is to work in theater in this town. The first person I am going to thank is (Horizon Theatre Artistic Director) Lisa Adler. What Lisa does at Horizon is so amazing to me, the variety of plays that she does. She brings out every year or so something like ‘Time Stands Still or ‘Homebody/Kabul’ or ‘The Syringa Tree’ that speaks to something so deep in a lot of people. It means a tremendous amount to me to be able to do plays like this.
“Theater of the kind that we do doesn’t just happen, it happens because of administrators who don’t give up. And it happens because we get in touch with lawmakers and tell them this is a vital part of a culture. Thanks to anyone who does any of that.”
Allen Edwards of Serenbe Playhouse’s “ A Walk in the Woods” was cited as Best Actor in a Play, while Actor’s Express’ “Kiss of the Spider Woman” picked up a pair of trophies for Lead Actor in a Musical (Craig Waldrip) and Featured Actor in a Musical (Bryant Smith). Smith won the same award last year for Aurora’s “Clyde ‘n Bonnie: A Folktale.”
New York performer Catherine Porter won Best Actress in a Musical for her role in the Alliance Theatre’s “Next to Normal.” The award for Best Director of a Play went to Patdro Harris for Theatrical Outfit’s “Fly,” and the show’s performers won a collective Best Ensemble in a Play.
Other winners included J.C. Long, Featured Actor in a Play for the New American Shakespeare Tavern’s “The Tempest,” and Bernardine Mitchell, Featured Actress in a Play for Horizon’s “Every Tongue Confess.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was the award for Best Ensemble of a Musical, which went to the cast of “The Ghastly Dreadfuls: The Last Ghast” at The Center for Puppetry Arts.
The Gene-Gabriel Moore Playwrighting Award was given to Topher Payne and his “Angry Fags,” the 7 Stages drama about a pair of gay men who turn vindictive after their friend is attacked. “This play, when I was in the process of writing it, I didn’t know if it would ever see production, but thanks to the bravery of Heidi Howard and the team of 7 Stages they were willing to take on this adventure,” Payne said.
Best World Premiere went to Actor’s Express’ “Wolves,” former Atlantan Steve Yockey’s spooky tale of paranoia and bloodshed.
“Hair,” the Serenbe Playhouse musical that many thought would be a major contender, won the only award it was nominated for, for Best Sound Design for Bobby Johnston.
A special Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Del Hamilton and Faye Allen, who founded 7 Stages and officially stepped down earlier this year. Betty Mitchell was named as Volunteer of the Year.
The awards are named after Bass, a beloved character actress who worked in Atlanta for several decades. A full list of winners will be available on the Suzi Bass Awards website.