Footlight Awards: honoring 2012’s best in performing arts
Seattle Times theater critic Misha Berson salutes Seattle-area actors and productions from the past year.
Seattle Times theater critic
It was a time of transitions on Seattle stages, of more locally generated works, of too many encores and a few robust risks.
The big story was the phoenixlike return of Intiman Theatre, in a radically different format than the Intiman of old.
Against the odds, the reconstituted company raised money to turn Intiman into a summer festival of four plays performed in repertory by an ensemble of local actors. They were strikingly uneven in execution, and Intiman’s artistic focus and future prospects remain fuzzy. But dedicated staffers who pulled off the 2012 fest likely generated enough support and goodwill for a 2013 follow-up.
Other professional resident theaters ignited excitement at times, but there was also plenty of the humdrum, and (per Seattle Rep’s long-awaited blues musical “Pullman Porter Blues”) the not fully realized.
A sense of discovery and inspiration often came from smaller companies and one-off productions, and some intriguing new plays by local dramatists.
If ACT Theatre’s mainstage season was a mixed bag, its ambitious adaptation of “Ramayana” and its glorious Pinter Festival demonstrated that the epic is possible even in lean times. And ACT’s multistage facility became an essential showcase for lively work by a bevy of young troupes.
Bravos also to On the Boards, now 35 years young, which brought us a banquet of provocative, magnetic performance pieces from here and abroad — inspiring in their inventiveness, and perspectives on a wider world.
If the local drama scene wasn’t at its peak in 2012, there were plenty of individual achievements to savor. So now, (drumroll, please!) here are the recipients of the 2012 Footlight Awards for excellence in Seattle-area theater (bestowed by Seattle Times staff and freelance critics):
Top Play Productions: “Clybourne Park” and “How to Write a New Book for the Bible” (Seattle Repertory Theatre); “Pygmalion” (Seattle Shakespeare Company); “Prairie Nocturne” (Book-It Repertory Theatre); “This Wide Night” and “Superior Donuts” (Seattle Public Theatre); “The Ramayana” and “The Dumb Waiter” (ACT Theatre); “Happy Days” (New City Theater); “The Bells” (Strawberry Theatre Workshop)
Top On-the-Fringe: “Jesus Hopped the A Train” (Azeotrope); “Oedipus el Rey” (eSe Teatro); “Stuck” (Washington Ensemble Theatre); “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” (Ghost Light Theatricals)
Top Musicals (locally produced) : “First Date” (ACT/5th Avenue Theatre); “Elf” (5th Avenue); “Fiddler on the Roof” (Village Theatre); “Spring Awakening” and “Avenue Q” (Balagan Theatre)
Best For Young Audiences: “A Single Shard” by Robert Schenkkan (Seattle Children’s Theatre)
Scintillating Shakespeare: “Romeo and Juliet” (Intiman Theatre); “Twelfth Night” (Wooden O/Seattle Shakespeare); “Titus Andronicus” (upstart crow collective)
Worthy World Premieres: “First Date” (Austin Winsberg, Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner); “Stuck” (Jessica Hatlo); “Torso” (Keri Healey); “99 Layoffs” (Vince Delaney)
Outstanding Acting (Classics): Mark Anders and Jennifer Lee Taylor (“Pygmalion”); Darragh Kennan (“Antony and Cleopatra”/ Seattle Shakespeare); Timothy McEuen Piggee (“Romeo and Juliet”/Intiman); Nike Imoru (“Titus Andronicus”)
Outstanding Acting (Modern Play): Linda Gehringer (“How to Write a New Book for the Bible”); Mary Ewald (“Happy Days” and “The Skriker”); Nick Garrison (“I Am My Own Wife”); Denis Arndt (“Red”/Seattle Rep); Alex Matthews and Kay Nahm (“Stuck”); Rose Cano (“Oedipus El Rey”); Christina Mastin and Emily Chisholm (“This Wide Night”); Geoffery Simmons (“Prairie Nocturne”); Trieu Tran (“Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam”/ACT); Charles Norris (“Superior Donuts”); Brandon O’Neill (“Ramayana”); Kirsten Potter (“Or,”); K. Brian Neel and Aimee Bruneau (“99 Layoffs”); David S. Hogan (“The Art of Racing in the Rain,” Book-It); Peter Crook (”The Bells”)
Great Performances (Musical): E. Faye Butler and Larry Marshall (“Pullman Porter Blues”); Eric Ankrim (“First Date”); Eric Polani Jensen (“Fiddler on the Roof”); Matt Owen (“Elf”); Kody Bringman (“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”/Arts West); Douglas Sills (“The Addams Family”); Rodney Hicks (“Big River”)
In a Category Of Its Own: Trimpin’s haunting “Gurs Zyklus,” a multimedia rumination on the Nazi deportation of German Jews to a French detention camp (On the Boards)
Best Eco-Theatre: Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s galvanic “red, black & GREEN: a blues” (Seattle Center)
The Kids Are All Right: Art on the Waterfront’s two-actor, no-budget, outdoor dash through “Romeo and Juliet”
Felicitous Fest: ACT Theatre’s terrific Pinter Festival, exploring the canon of the influential British dramatist, Harold Pinter
Welcome Back, and Welcome: Radial Theatre Company; Mirror Stage Company; eSe Teatro; new ACT associate artistic head John Langs
Hardest Working Guy in Theater: Eric Ankrim, who starred in “First Date” and “Oklahoma!” (5th Avenue), and directed hit versions of “Spring Awakening, “Avenue Q” and “Elf”
Hardest Working Gal in Theater: Mary Ewald, shape-shifting actress in “Tiny Kushner” and “Happy Days” (New City); and “The Skriker” (Janice Findley Productions)
Guys in High Heels: The ever-fab Burton Curtis in “Miracle!” (Intiman)
Keepers of the Faith: Intiman artistic director Andrew Russell and manager Keri Kellerman
Quirky Cool: “Fairytale Lives of the Russian Girls” and “The Callers” (both Washington Ensemble Theatre)
Spookiest Spectacle: “The Skriker” (Janice Findley Productions)
Design Magic (to name a few of too many to name): Sets by Carey Wong (“Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet”/Book-It and “A Single Shard”); Robert Dahlstrom (The Pinter Festival); Bill Forrester (“Fiddler on the Roof”); Matthew Smucker (“Elf” and “Ramayana”), Kent Dorsey (“Red”) and Montana Tippett (“The Bells”). Costumes by Melanie Burgess (“Ramayana”) and Catherine Hunt (“Or,”)
Best Food Course: The borscht parfait in Cafe Nordo’s “Somethin Burnin’.”
Santa’s Biggest Helper: Matt Owen, scampering through “Elf”
Hold the Rice: Shticky wedding-themed duds “One Slight Hitch” (ACT) and “It Shoulda Been You” (Village)
Sheer Torture: “Shear Madness” (on tour at Moore Theatre)
Best Performance by a Toilet Seat: The one in “Stuck” (WET)
Most Cringe-Worthy Scene: The S&M (or was it rape?) segment in “Dirty Story” (Intiman)
Hold the Choreography: The psycho-dance in “Hedda Gabler” (Intiman)
Local Treasure: On the Boards, still bringing us inventive, provocative international artists, in 2012 including Gob Squad, Teatro Linea de Sombra, Trimpin, Kyle Loven, Mark Morris and Mikhail Baryshnikov
Rest in Peace: Director-educator Andrea Allen; arts administrator Terry Healy; performer Heather Hughes; and the Cafe Racer shooting victims: musicians Drew Keriakedes and Joe Albanese, and actress Kim Layfield
Misha Berson: email@example.com
This story was corrected on Sunday, Dec. 30 and 31, 2012. In the original version, the passage lauding set designers Robert Dahlstrom (The Pinter Festival) and Bill Forrester ("Fiddler on the Roof") was incomplete. Also, Janice Findley's name was misspelled.